Dutch foundation seeks damages from consumers over Apple and Google app payments


AMSTERDAM, Feb 15 (Reuters) – (This February 15 story corrects post title in paragraph 9)

Apple (AAPL.O) and Google are facing a potential class action lawsuit in the Netherlands over App Store fees, after a foundation led by Dutch entrepreneur Alexander Klöpping began rounding up claimants.

The suit, which still faces legal hurdles ahead of any hearing, reflects growing criticism over how much the two companies charge developers for payments on their app stores, while the Netherlands has become increasingly increasingly popular as a jurisdiction to bring claims against multinational companies.

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Klöpping is co-founder of Blendle, a digital platform that allows users to buy individual news articles, which he sold in 2020. He told Reuters his determination to sue the tech giants was born from his experience at Blendle.

“The reason this is getting so much attention right now is that everyone feels in their gut that there’s this power imbalance when it comes to big tech companies.”

He said while developers complain the most about app store practices, the costs are ultimately passed on to consumers.

Klöpping’s App Store Claims Foundation is represented by law firm Hausfeld, with funding from Fortress Investment Group.

Apple did not respond to requests for comment. A spokesperson for Alphabet (GOOGL.O), which owns Google, had no immediate comment, but said the company had reduced fees on Google Play.

At this point in the Dutch class action proceedings – which have been codified in a 2020 law – a formal notice has been sent to Apple and Google.

Rob Okhuijsen, director of strategy at Hausfeld, said the next step would be to submit evidence to the Amsterdam District Court in April. If a judge agrees, the court would then begin to assess the merits of the complaint.

CMS lawyer Bart-Adriaan de Ruijter, who is not involved in the case but specializes in corporate litigation, said the Netherlands was becoming a magnet for lawsuits against multinationals . Recent examples include a $339 million lawsuit launched last month against Airbus and a ruling last year ordering Shell to cut carbon emissions. Read more

Apple has already been taken to task by Dutch authorities for its app store practices. In December, the Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) ordered Apple to allow dating app developers to offer payment options other than Apple in the Netherlands. Read more

Apple, which is appealing, has been fined $5.7 million four times for failing to comply, most recently on Monday. Read more

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Reporting by Toby Sterling; Editing by Edmund Blair and Michael Urquhart

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