International tech litigation reaches the next level: collective actions against TikTok and Google


Written by Xandra Kramer (Erasmus University Rotterdam/Utrecht University) & Eduardo Silva de Freitas (Erasmus University Rotterdam), members of the Vici project Affordable Access to Justice, financed by the Dutch Research Council (NWO),


We have reported on the Dutch WAMCA procedure for collective actions in a number of previous blogposts. This collective action procedure was introduced on 1 January 2020, enabling claims for damages, and has since resulted in a stream of (interim) judgments addressing different aspects in the preliminary stages of the procedure. This includes questions on the admissibility and funding requirements, some of which are also of importance as examples for the rolling out of the Representative Action Directive for consumers in other Member States. It also poses very interesting questions of private international law, as in particular the collective actions for damages against tech giants are usually international cases. We refer in particular to earlier blogposts on international jurisdiction in the privacy case against TikTok and the referral to the CJEU regarding international jurisdiction under the Brussels I-bis Regulation in the competition case against Apple.

In this blogpost we focus on two follow-up interim judgments: one in the collective action against TikTok entities and the other against Google. The latter case is being discussed due to its striking similarity to the case against Apple.

The next steps in the TikTok collective action

The collective action against TikTok that was brought before the Amsterdam District Court under the Dutch WAMCA in 2021. Three representative organisations brought the claim against seven TikTok entities located in different countries, on the basis of violation of the Code of Conduct of the Dutch Media Act and the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The series of claims include, among others, the destruction of unlawfully obtained personal data, the implementation of an effective system for age registration, parental permission and control, measures to ensure compliance with the Dutch Media Act and the GDPR as well as the compensation of material and immaterial damages.

In an earlier blogpost we reported that the Amsterdam District Court ruled that it had international jurisdiction under the Brussels I-bis Regulation and the GDPR. In the follow-up of this case, the court reviewed the admissibility requirements, one of which concerns the funding and securing that there is not conflict of interest (see Tzankova and Kramer, 2021). This has led to another interim judgment focusing on the assessment of the third party funding agreement as two out of the three claimant organisations had concluded such agreement, as reported on this blog here. In short, the court conditioned the admissibility of the representative claimant organisations on amendments of the agreement with the commercial funder due to concerns related to the control of the procedure and the potential excessiveness of the fee. The court provided as a guideline that the percentage should be determined in such a way that it is expected that, in total, the financers can receive a maximum of five times the amount invested.

On 10 January 2024 the latest interim judgment was rendered. Without providing further details the Amsterdam District Court concluded that the required adjustments to the funding agreement had been made and that the clauses that had raised concern had been deleted or amended. It considered that the independence of the claimants in taking procedural decisions was sufficiently guaranteed. The court declared the representative organisations admissible, appointing two of them as Exclusive Representative (one for minors and the other for adults) based on their experience, the number of represented people they represent, their collaboration and support. The court confirmed its statement made in a previous interim judgment that the claim for immaterial damages is inadmissible as that would require an assessment per victim, which it considered impossible in a collective action. This is admittedly a setback for the collective protection of privacy rights, notably similar to the one following the 2021 United Kingdom Supreme Court ruling in Lloyd v Google.

With this last interim judgment the preliminary hurdles have been overcome, and the court proceeded to provide further guidelines as to the opt-out and opt-in as the next step. The WAMCA is an opt-out procedure, but to foreign parties in principle an opt-in regime applies. The collective action was aimed representing people in the Netherlands, but was extended to people who have moved abroad during the procedure, and these are under the opt-in rule. The information on opt-out and opt-in will be widely published.

It remains to be seen how the case will progress considering the further procedural decisions and the assessment on the merits.

The claim against Google and its private international law implications

Another case with an international dimension is the collective action for damages against Google that was filed under the WAMCA, alleging anticompetitive practices concerning the handling of the app store (DC Amsterdam, 27 December 2023, ECLI:NL:RBAMS:2023:8425; in Dutch). This development comes amidst a landscape marked by high-profile antitrust collective actions with international dimensions, such as the one filed against Apple, in which there is an ongoing legal battle regarding Apple’s alleged anticompetitive behavior in the market for app distribution and in-app products on iOS devices. Cases like these are either pending before courts or under investigation by competition authorities worldwide, reflecting a broader global trend towards increased scrutiny of antitrust practices in the digital marketplace.

In the present case, the claimant organisation argues that the anticompetitive nature of Google’s business stems from a collection of practices rather than an isolated practice. Such a collection of practices would shield Google from nearly all possible competition and allow it to charge excessive fees due to its dominance in the market. The practices that, taken together, form this anticompetitive behaviour are essentially:

(i) The bundling of pre-installed apps, including Google’s Play Store, with the licensing of the Android operating system to the manufacturers of smartphones;

(ii) The imposition that transactions related to the Play Store be undertaken only within Google’s own payment system;

(iii) The charging of a fee of 30% from the app’s developer, which the claimant organisation deems abusive and only possible due to Google’s dominant position created by the abovementioned practices.

Based on these allegations, the claimant organisation accuses Google of engaging in mutually exclusive and exploitative practices, thereby abusing a dominant position in a manner contrary to Article 102 TFEU. This case unfolds within a broader global context where antitrust actions against Google’s Play Store, its payment system, and the bundling with the Android operating system have gained significant momentum. Just last December, Google reached a settlement in a multidistrict litigation involving all 50 states of the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The settlement addressed issues very similar to those raised in this case, as explicitly outlined in the agreement. The Competition and Markets Authority in the United Kingdom is also conducting an antitrust investigation into these aspects of Google’s operations. Furthermore, the practice of pre-installing Google apps as a requirement for obtaining a license to use their app store is under investigation by the Brazilian Competition Authority.

From a private international law perspective, this case closely resembles another one against Apple referred to the CJEU by the District Court of Amsterdam and discussed earlier in this blog, in which similar antitrust claims were raised due to the handling of the app store and the exclusionary design of the respective payment system. However, unlike the collective action against Apple, in this case the District Court of Amsterdam clearly did not refer the case to the CJEU and instead decided by itself whether it had jurisdiction to hear the claim. And again, like the Apple case, the court was called upon to decide on both international jurisdiction and its territorial jurisdiction within the Netherlands.

International jurisdiction

The collective action under the Dutch WAMCA in the Google case was filed against a total of eight defendants. Two of the defendants (Google Netherlands B.V. and Google Netherlands Holdings B.V.) against whom the claim was filed are established in the Netherlands, and for them the standard rule of Article 4 Brussels I-bis Regulation applies. There are also three other defendants (Google Ireland Limited, Google Commerce Limited, and Google Payment Ireland Limited) established in another EU Member State, namely Ireland. With regards to these defendants, the court also assessed whether it had jurisdiction based on the Brussels I-bis Regulation. Finally, there are three defendants based outside of the EU – Alphabet Inc. and Google LLC in the United States and Google Payment Limited in the United Kingdom. Jurisdiction with regards to these defendants based outside of the EU was established under the pertinent rules contained in the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure (DCCP).

The court initiated its assessment by recognizing that, due to the lack of jurisdiction rules specifically addressing collective actions in both the Brussels I-bis Regulation and the Dutch Code of Civil Procedure, the standard rules within these frameworks should be applied. The court’s reasoning was based on the established principle that no differentiation exists between individual and collective actions when determining jurisdiction. The court primarily conducted its assessment regarding whether the Netherlands could be considered the Erfolgsort under Article 7(2) of the Brussels I-bis Regulation, mostly ex officio, as this was not a point of contention between the parties.

The court’s view is that the criteria from Case C-27/17 flyLAL-Lithuanian Airlines (ECLI:EU:C:2018:533) should be applied, according to which the location of the market affected by the anticompetitive practice is the Erfolgsort. The location of the damage is where the initial and direct harm occurred, which primarily involves users overpaying for purchases made on the Play Store. In the present case the court, applying such criteria, decided that the Netherlands can be considered the Erfolgsort, given that the claimant organisation represents users that make purchases and reside in the Netherlands. This reasoning is very similar to the one used by the District Court of Amsterdam in deciding to refer the Apple case to the CJEU.

Territorial jurisdiction within the Netherlands

With regards to the jurisdiction of the District Court of Amsterdam to hear this collective action in which the claimant organisation sues on behalf of all the users residing in the Netherlands, the decision contains an assessment starting from the CJEU ruling in Case C-30/20 Volvo (ECLI:EU:C:2021:604). Such ruling states that Article 7(2) Brussels I-bis Regulation grants jurisdiction over claims for damages due to infringement of Article 101 TFEU to the court where the goods were purchased. If purchases were made in multiple locations, jurisdiction lies with the court where the alleged victim’s registered office is located.

In the case at hand, given the mobile nature of the purchases, it is not possible to pinpoint a specific location. However, under the criteria just mentioned, the District Court of Amsterdam has jurisdiction over the victims’ registered offices for those residing in Amsterdam in accordance with both Article 7(2) Brussels I-bis Regulation (Google Ireland Limited, Google Commerce Limited, and Google Payment Ireland Limited) and the similar provision in Article 102 DCCP (Alphabet Inc., Google LLC, and Google Payment Limited).

For users residing elsewhere in the Netherlands, the parties agreed that the District Court of Amsterdam would serve as the chosen forum for users who are not based in Amsterdam. The court decided that, with regards to Alphabet Inc., Google LLC, and Google Payment Limited, this is possible under Article 108(1) DCCP on choice of court. As to Google Ireland Limited, Google Commerce Limited, and Google Payment Ireland Limited, the court interpreted Article 7(2) Brussels I-bis Regulation in light of the principle of party autonomy (see Kramer and Themeli, 2016) as enshrined in Recitals 15 and 19, as well as Article 25 Brussels I-bis Regulation. The court also noted that no issues concerning exclusive jurisdiction arise in the present case and made a reference to the rule contained in Article 19(1) Brussels I-bis Regulation according to which the protective rule of Article 18 Brussels I-bis Regulation can be set aside by mutual agreement during pending proceedings.

Finally, the court decided that centralising this claim under its jurisdiction is justified under the principle of sound administration of justice and the prevention of parallel proceedings. In the court’s understanding, the goal of Article 7 Brussels I-bis Regulation is to place the claim before the court that is better suited to process it given the connection between the two and, given that the mobile nature of the purchases gives rise to damages all over the Netherlands, such a court would be difficult to designate. Hence the need for respecting the choice of court agreement.

Applicable law

The court established the law applicable to the present dispute under Article 6(3)(a) Rome II Regulation. The court used the same reasoning it had laid out to establish jurisdiction in the Netherlands as the Erfolgsort, since it is the market affected by the alleged anticompetitive practices where the users concerned reside and made their purchases. The court also considered the claimant organization’s argument that, according to Article 10(1) of the Rome II Regulation, the Dutch law of unjust enrichment could govern the claim. Although the court did not provide extensive elaboration, it agreed with this view.

Funding aspects of the claim against Google

Lastly, in a naturally similar way as regarding the TikTok claim explained above, the court assessed the funding arrangements of the claim against Google under the requirements set by the WAMCA. The court took issue with the fact that the funding arrangement entered by the claimant organisation is somewhat indirect, since it is apparent that the funder itself relies on another funder which is not a part of the agreement presented to the court. Under these circumstances, the court deems itself unable to properly assess the claimant organisation’s independence from the “actual” funder and its relationship with the remuneration structure.

For this reason, the court ordered the claimant organisation to resubmit the agreement, which it is allowed to do in two versions. One version of the agreement will be presented in full and will be available to the court only, to assess it in its entirety. The other version, also available to Google, will have the parts concerning the overall budget for the claim concealed. However, the parts concerning the funder’s compensation share must remain legible for discussion around the organisation’s independence from the funder, and confirmation that such agreement reflects the whole funding arrangement of the claim was also required.