It’s rare that courts rule they don’t have jurisdiction to hear cases arising from events that happened on their own soil. Thus, predictably, Google has lost its bid to dismiss a UK-based civil complaint, arising out of the “Cookiegate” episode, on jurisdictional grounds.
As you may recall, Cookiegate arose when Google was discovered surreptitiously circumventing the Safari browser’s privacy settings (on the iPhone and beyond) in early 2012. It ultimately resulted in regulatory investigations and fines. In the US, Google paid a $22.5 million fine to settle the case with the FTC.
In addition to a government investigation, a civil complaint was filed in the UK. Google had moved to dismiss the case, arguing that the company not subject to UK privacy laws and that plaintiffs must refile their case in California where Google is based.
Google was effectively arguing that UK courts had no jurisdiction over the company.
Agreeing with Google would have potentially created a precedent that then could have been used by other foreign companies doing business in the UK to avoid being sued by UK citizens. It might have created a kind of civil “corporate immunity.” The implications of that were probably simply not acceptable for UK courts.
According to an article in the UK based Telegraph, Google will now fight the civil suit:
Google has vowed to fight the decision. A spokesperson said: “A case almost identical to this one was dismissed in its entirety three months ago in the US. We still don’t think that this case meets the standards required in the UK for it to go to trial, and we’ll be appealing today’s ruling.”
Indeed, Google may win at trial or on some other type of pre-trial procedural action. However, its broad and audacious attempt to avoid liability in the UK has been defeated.