Consumers may sue Facebook in their home country

An Austrian citizen is allowed to sue the Facebook in personal case in his home country, however he is not allowed to lodge a class action against this company, ruled today the Court of Justice in case C-498/16.

Max Schrems had lodged the class action in an Austrian court on behalf of himself and seven other users in Austria, Germany and India against Facebook Ireland for various alleged rights violations including personal data. Facebook, which operates its European services in Ireland, had argued that Austrian courts did not have jurisdiction over its Irish operations, and that Schrems was a “professional” user and therefore not covered by consumer protection provisions.

The court decided that a Facebook user could be considered a “consumer” if their use was “predominately” for personal and not professional use and consumers can file complaints against activities in another EU member state in their country of domicile. „Mr Schrems may bring an individual action in Austria against Facebook Ireland,” the Court (ECJ said in a statement. „By contrast, as the assignee of other consumers’ claims, he cannot benefit from the consumer forum for the purposes of a collective action.”

Austria’s supreme court had referred the matter to the ECJ after Schrems’s lawsuit was first thrown out and then restored by the country’s courts. The case now returns to Austria’s Supreme Court for final judgment.

Schrems was the one who brought down the EU’s former „safe harbour” data sharing arrangement in 2015 after he sued Facebook in Ireland over the transfer of personal information by Facebook from Europe to the US.

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