Google Faces New Menace in EU as Hausfeld Eyes Damages Lawsuits

Perceived victims of Google Inc.’s alleged anti-competitive behavior have a new European dial-in number.

U.S. law firm Hausfeld & Co. LLP and antitrust consulting company Avisa Partners set up a platform to evaluate potential damages suits as the European Union threatens the search-engine giant with antitrust fines.

“Any person or entity that engaged in e-commerce in the EU may have a civil claim,” Laurent Geelhand, a lawyer at Hausfeld, said in a joint statement published Tuesday with Avisa. Depending on the merits of each case, individual claims could be about 100 million euros ($112.8 million), he told reporters in Brussels.

Building on a more aggressive stance taken by the European Commission, Hausfeld will seek to take advantage of last year’s legislation to make it easier for victims of antitrust violations to sue and spur damages claims across Europe.

Google, which rejects allegations it abused its market power, declined to comment on the platform.

The EU’s competition chief, Margrethe Vestager, in April sent Google an antitrust complaint spelling out where it thinks the world’s largest search-engine is breaking the law, pushing the investigation into new territory. The regulator accused Google of wielding its market power to quell competition in the comparison-shopping market and threatened further probes.

The Mountain View California-based company hit back last week in a written response that ridiculed as “peculiar and problematic” EU demands to change the way it displays search results.

Damages Claims

Google has already faced damages claims, including one filed by price comparison website Foundem in the U.K. that has been delayed by the EU competition investigation. Hausfeld, which made a name for itself with damages actions including U.S. investor suits linked to currency-rigging, represents Foundem in the British case.

While Hausfeld and Avisa are planning to work on claims as soon as they come in, any competition decision establishing an infringement would strengthen their hand.

“When you look at the pace at which Margrethe Vestager is working I would suspect that we will see a commission decision in the first part of 2016,” Geelhand said.

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