T Skevington and M Bacina
Crypto class action commenced against Google, Facebook
Google and Facebook have been hit with a class action in relation to their decisions in 2018 to restrict advertising of digital currencies on their respective platforms.
An originating application, statement of claim and genuine steps statement were lodged in the New South Wales registry of the Federal Court this month by Andrew Hamilton claiming that the internet giants breached Australian competition laws.
In comments provided to Cointelegraph, Hamilton, who is not a lawyer, claims that his extensive research into Australian competition law has led to his belief that Facebook and Google were acting as a cartel, and that it would be “pretty easy to prove it.”
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission may not be as confident as Mr Hamilton, as they did not respond to Mr Hamilton complaints about Google and Facebook. Mr Hamilton also told Cointelegraph that the class action has seen “a major law firm” contribute “hundreds of hours off the clock".
Google has previously responded to these allegations in a July 2019 letter, saying:
The change in Google's Financial Products and Services Policy was made by Google's global ads policy team to address the inherent risks in the underlying products and because in many cases the products are unverifiable and/or unregulated
At this stage, without knowing the details of the claim, it is difficult to contemplate the merit of the arguments. In addition to the specific questions about the application of Australia's prohibitions against cartel conduct, which are set out in Part IV, Division 1 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth), there are opens questions about the claim's connection to Australia, as well as the arrangements between Mr Hamilton in his role as Applicant, Legal Representative and any litigation funder (if there is one).
Mr Hamilton is reportedly making submissions to the effect that no adverse costs order should be made against the Applicant on the basis of the significant financial disparity between the parties.
This claim has been on the cards for some time, with Mr Hamilton spruiking the class action in July 2019 to news outlet Micky, and more recently in a template notice of a pending class action sent to exchanges during the Steemit saga, where Mr Hamilton claimed:
JPB Liberty is also well advanced in preparing a class action lawsuit against Facebook, Google and Twitter for banning the advertisements of the cryptocurrency industry in early 2018
Google began relaxing its ban in late 2018, and Facebook relented in 2019 by no longer requiring pre-approval for ads related to blockchain technology. We will continue following this case and provide updates.