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Has Google done you wrong? Well, then Hausfeld, an international plaintiff's firm, wants to hear from you. The firm, known for its high-profile class actions, recently launched a platform to help individuals and businesses pursue potential lawsuits against Google.
The Google Redress & Integrity Platform, or GRIP, is specifically aimed at those harmed by the tech company's allegedly anticompetitive behavior in Europe. In April, the European Commission accused Google of abusing its search dominance in violation of European antitrust laws. That action could bring up to $6 billion in fines and, Hausfeld hopes, spawn a slew of civil suits.
Get a GRIP
GRIP's stated goal is to help corporations and individuals "evaluate the potential damage claims arising from Google's anticompetitive behavior." In other words, it wants to gather information and potential parties -- called "victims of Google" by GRIP -- for possible civil suits. Membership in GRIP doesn't come cheap however. Small companies must hand over $11,200, while large ones pay over $75,000, according to PC Magazine. Litigation costs aren't included.
GRIP is being jointly run by the European P.R. firm Avisa and Hausfeld. When someone submits a potential claim, Avisa conducts "initial filtering," then passes the information on to Hausfeld for assessment.
Hausfeld is no stranger to battling Google and other major organizations. The firm is currently representing Foundem, a comparison shopping site, in a U.K. suit against the search giant. Michael Hausfeld, the firm's chairman, has a long history of taking on powerful corporations and institutions. Most recently, he represented college athletes in a class action against the NCAA, a suit which led ESPN to call him "one of the most powerful people in sports." Hausfeld helped pioneer sexual harassment litigation and once represented Native Alaskans injured by the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Google's Antitrust Woes
The antitrust claims against Google stem from the way in which it displays search results. According to the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, those results privilege Google's own products. For example, if you Google "flights to Paris," you'll get a list of potential trips, provided by Google's flight booking service, displayed directly above your search results. The actual top search results -- competing websites like Trip Advisor, Kayak and Expedia -- show up halfway down the page, under Google's own flight lists.
That's an anticompetitive practice, according to the EU. The European Commission has accused the company of "systematic favourable treatment" of its own products based on their prominent placement in search results. And in Europe, Google search results are pretty much all search results. There, Google controls over 90 percent of the search market, compared to just 65 percent in the United States.
The company formally responded to the charges last Thursday, calling them unfounded.
GRIP isn't the only group reaching out to those potentially harmed by Google's practices, however. Fairsearch, the French Open Internet Project, and the Initiative for a Competitive Online Market Place are all competing to take on the world's biggest search company.