City firm backs huge group action case against Google

Google will face a consumer action complaint potentially including millions of claimants, in one of the largest representative action cases to date.

The ‘Google You Owe Us’ group has alleged that Google unlawfully harvested personal information by bypassing the default privacy settings on the iPhone during a period of several months in 2011/2012. The group said around 5.4m individuals who had an iPhone in this period could be eligible for compensation.

City firm Mishcon de Reya is advising the group, which is being led by Richard Lloyd, consumer rights campaigner and former director at Which?.

Litigation funder Therium Captial Management, also currently funding the high-profile shareholder action group claim against Lloyds, is to help fund the case, reportedly to the tune of £15.5m.

James Oldnall (pictured), lead Mishcon partner on the claim, said the case would remove the need for individuals to bring an action which they would otherwise be unlikely to do. ‘In this way Google and other tech companies can be held to account in relation to any alleged breaches of UK data protection law.,’ he said. ’As data has quickly become an important new currency in the information economy and is very valuable to large corporations, it is important consumers find methods – such as this representative action – that can effectively police the rights given to them by parliament.’

Oldnall added that although the total sums made by Google from misusing data are likely to be large, the damages suffered by each individual are relatively small.

People affected will automatically be part of the claim, unless they wish to opt out and could get as much as ‘several hundred pounds each’.

Such opt-out group action cases were enabled by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. A huge case, in which 46 million MasterCard consumers claimed £14bn from the credit card company in protest at so-called excess ‘interchange fees,’ was thrown out of the Competition Appeal Tribunal earlier this year. An appeal has been filed. The Lloyds shareholder case is ongoing.

The case centres on Google’s cookies system. It is alleged that for several months Google placed ad-tracking cookies on the devices of Safari users which is set by default to block such cookies.

Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of Which?, said: ‘This welcome campaign should empower consumers by bringing the issue into the spotlight and enabling those affected to rightly seek collective compensation.’

A Google spokesperson said: ’This is not new – we have defended similar cases before. We don’t believe it has any merit and we will contest it.’

Commercial Litigation and ADR Mechanisms in Nigeria

Litigation is the most common form of dispute resolution in Nigeria. Its origin is entrenched in the English common law. Oftentimes, litigation is cumbersome because of ingrained culture of litigation which results in overflow of cases and delay in adjudication. This is bad for business and business relationships. The need for a more efficient dispute resolution process has contributed to the prominence of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms in recent years.

Nigerian courts through their rules now encourage litigants to resolve their disputes by adopting ADR mechanisms. The court may, with the cooperation and consent of the parties, refer the parties to ADR centers attached to the court system. If successful, the agreed terms of settlement is adopted as the consent judgment of the court. If unsuccessful, the matter is referred to court for adjudication. In adopting ADR processes, the parties may opt for informal tribunals which use informal mediation processes without possessing a formal structure or formal tribunals using formal mediation processes.

The most known and practiced ADR mechanisms in Nigeria are Arbitration, Mediation and Conciliation;

(a) Arbitration

Arbitration is the process of dispute resolution between parties to a submission or arbitration agreement. The parties agree on the composition of the arbitral tribunal, seat, timetable, procedural rules, substantive law of arbitration and finality of the decision of the arbitral tribunal. The key theme in arbitration is ‘party autonomy’. Arbitral proceedings avoid much of the formalities, proof and procedure required by courts. The arbitral tribunal may determine its jurisdiction under the competence-competence rule. Generally, the arbitration process is regulated by the Arbitration and Conciliation Act CAP A18, LFN 2004.

Arbitration is recommended for most businesses because of its confidentiality, speed, reduced cost compared to the cost of delay in court, specialized expertise of the arbitral tribunal and party autonomy. Both local and foreign arbitral awards are enforceable by Nigeria courts upon the winning party obtaining leave to register and enforce the award against the losing party.

(b) Mediation

Mediation is a voluntary, non-binding and private dispute resolution process in which a neutral person helps the parties to reach a negotiated settlement. Mediation is very flexible. A mediator applies nonbinding communication techniques to enable the parties arrive at a common terms of settlement. While there are no Federal laws governing mediation, States in Nigeria have enacted laws on mediation.

In Lagos State, Lagos Multi-door Courthouse was established for the referral of ADR cases. The domestic sources of mediation law include the Lagos State Multi-Door Court Law 2007 and the accompanying Lagos State Multi-Door Court Practice Directions on Mediation, the Citizens Mediation Centre Law 2007 and the Lagos Court of Arbitration’s (LCA) Mediation Guidelines 2011. In Kano State, there is the Mediation and Arbitration Rules 2008.

(c) Conciliation

Conciliation is another legal form of resolving disputes in a less adversarial and private manner. Under this process, the parties agree to resolve their dispute through a neutral independent person known as the Conciliator. Conciliation is also regulated by Arbitration and Conciliation Act CAP. A18 LFN 2004.

The appeal process

An appeal against final judgments is brought within 90 days after delivery of judgment and 14 days for interlocutory rulings. The Court of Appeal rules allows an Appellant to bring an application before the appellate court for enlargement of time to file an appeal. An appeal does not operate as a stay of execution of judgment at the trial court; the Appellant has to file for a stay of execution of judgment pending the outcome of the appeal. An appeal is filed against questions of law of the trial court. If an Appellant wants to bring an appeal against questions of facts or mixed law and facts, it must seek and obtain leave of the appellate court.

The parties shall settle the record of appeal at the registry of the trial court and transmit it to the registry of the appellate court. The Appellant shall file its Appellant’s Brief within 45 days after transmission of the record of appeal. The Respondent shall file the Respondent’s Brief within 30 days of receipt of the Appellant’s Brief. The Appellant shall file a Reply Brief within 14 days of receipt of the Respondent’s Brief. The parties shall, at a date fixed for hearing by the appellate court, adopt their respective briefs and the appeal will be adjourned for judgment.

Advantages of resolving disputes in Nigeria

Unlike other jurisdictions in Africa, the rules of Nigerian courts encourage and provide avenues for litigants to explore amicable and less acrimonious settlement of their dispute. Nigerian courts uphold arbitration and other ADR clauses and in most instances stay court proceedings pending the outcome of arbitral proceedings. The court system support ADR proceedings by granting necessary interim orders, discovery and enforce arbitral awards in the same way as its judgments.

Assistance in commercial litigation

Commercial lawyers are interested in their Clients’ business and their business relationship with their customers. This is why they explore amicable settlement of disputes involving their Client without compromising their Clients’ interests. If amicable settlement fails and the parties do not have an arbitration agreement between them, it may be expedient to suggest to the parties to sign a submission agreement to enable them submit themselves to arbitration because of its speed and confidentiality. If litigation is inevitable and their Clients’ claim is a liquidated sum, time would be saved by commencing a summary judgment proceeding. If their Client is the defendant, genuine admissions and reasonable offer towards timeous resolution of the matter are veritable options in preventing litigation from escalating.

Cost of litigation

Litigation has the potential of resulting in high cost for parties and their businesses because of its unpredictability. Though arbitration is much more efficient in today’s business climate, there are certain disputes that can only be resolved by litigation. Disputes involving moral questions, questions of public law, criminal, matrimonial, insolvency, matters, ownership of land, dissolution of a company and testamentary matters cannot be referred to arbitration. In practice, only contractual disputes are referred to arbitration.

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London reveals 80%+ retention rates

City firms have begun to release retention rates for the autumn cohort of trainees, with many posting figures in excess of 80% – a significant indicator of health in the sector.

Slaughter and May leads the way in the magic circle so far. It has taken on 29 of 32 trainees (90%). Allen & Overy had 47 trainees and made offers to 41, of who 40 accepted (85%). Linklaters took on 47 of its 56-strong group (84%).

However, magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer offered contracts to only 29 of 41 trainees, with 27 (66%) accepting a role. It is in marked contrast to last September when the firm retained 95% of its 42 trainees.

As the Gazette went to press, Clifford Chance was the only magic circle firm yet to reveal retention figures.

Elsewhere, silver circle firm Ashurst took on 19 of 20 trainees (95%), while Bird & Bird retained 15 from 18 (83%). Hogan Lovells took on 24 out of 30 (80%)

International firm Pinsent Masons’ figures were not as high, though the firm had many more trainees than some of its rivals. Of 91 trainees, 84 applied and 67 were successful (73%). 

Things were far less positive for Weil, Gotshal & Manges. The US-headquartered firm – famous for its high pay rates for newly qualified solicitors – offered contracts to all of its 10 trainees but only five accepted

International firm Taylor Wessing also posted a fairly low score, retaining 62% of its 26-strong cohort, while litigation experts Stewarts Law took on just one out of four trainees.

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Pakistan lawyers strike in protest after Quetta attack

Lawyers across Pakistan are boycotting court to mourn the loss of some 70 people, many of them lawyers, killed in a bomb attack in Quetta.

In Balochistan – Quetta is the provincial capital – markets and schools have been closed.

The bomber targeted crowds who had gathered outside a hospital to mourn prominent lawyer Bilal Kasi who had been murdered earlier on Monday.

Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar says it was behind both the attack and murder.

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The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) said its lawyers would be boycotting court proceedings, and observing a week of mourning.

Many lawyers are expected to take part in rallies across Pakistan on Tuesday.

“We [lawyers] have been targeted because we always raise our voice for people’s rights and for democracy,” SCBA President Ali Zafar told reporters in Lahore.

“Lawyers will not just protest this attack, but also prepare a long-term plan of action.”

Monday’s bombing targeted lawyers and journalists who had crammed into the emergency department of Quetta’s Civil Hospital where the body of Mr Kasi had been brought.

Former provincial bar president Baz Muhammad Kakar was one of at least 25 lawyers killed. TV news cameramen Shahzad Khan and Mehmood Khan were also among the dead.

At least 120 people were injured.

Bilal Kasi, who was head of the Balochistan province bar association, had earlier been shot while on his way to the court complex in Quetta.

He had strongly condemned the recent murders – including those of fellow lawyers – in Quetta in recent weeks, and had announced a two-day boycott of court sessions in protest at the killing of a colleague last week.