A lawsuit faced by Google and amounting to almost £14 billion will go to trial in the UK.

The case, brought by Ad Tech Collective Action LLP, alleges that the US tech giant engaged in anti-competitive practices which affected revenues at online publishers in the UK.

A London Tribunal has given the green light to the class action 18 months after it was filed. No court date has been set.

Ad Tech Collective Action says Google engaged in ‘self-preferencing’ when selecting ads to be hosted on websites: abusing its market dominance in web search by promoting its own products and services ahead of its rivals.

This means publishers lose money on the ads they host as well as having to pay “very high” fees to Google.

Funded by an unknown third-party, the suit is seeking to recover costs and damages for UK-domiciled publishers and publisher partners. As an ‘opt-out’ case, all relevant UK publishers are included unless they indicate otherwise.

Ad Tech Collective Action says UK publishers will not pay costs to participate.

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“This is a decision of major importance to the victims of Google’s anti-competitive conduct in adtech,” said former Ofcom director Claudio Pollack, a partner in Ad Tech Collective Action.

“Google will now have to answer for its practices in a full trial.

“I look forward to working with our legal and economic advisers to deliver compensation for years during which the relevant markets did not provide a competitive outcome for the UK publishing market.”

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Google will continue to challenge the claim. Its legal director Oliver Bethell said: “This lawsuit is speculative and opportunistic. We’ll oppose it vigorously and on the facts.

“Google works constructively with publishers across the UK and Europe. Our advertising tools, and those of our many adtech competitors, help millions of websites and apps fund their content, and enable businesses of all sizes to effectively reach new customers. 

“These services adapt and evolve in partnership with those same publishers.”

Google’s AdTech business is currently being investigated by UK regulator the Competition and Markets Authority, as well as by the European Commission.

In the US, Google is also fighting anti-competition lawsuits from the Department of Justice and states including Texas.

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