An Austrian activist can not bring a class action against Facebook for privacy breaches, although he is allowed to sue the U.S. social media giant on a personal basis in his home country, the EU's top court ruled Thursday, January 25.
Europe's highest court cleared the way Thursday for a privacy suit against Facebook, but it said the Austrian plaintiff can not represent other users. The court found Schrems" page does not "entail the loss of a private Facebook account user's status as a "consumer'".
Mr Schrems, who is resident in Austria, brought legal proceedings against Facebook Ireland before the Austrian courts.
However, the CJEU said he could not bring the claims of all those other people along with him into his Austrian case.
Facebook took the view that the Austrian courts do not have global jurisdiction, and that Mr Schrems can not rely on the rule of European Union law that allows consumers to sue a foreign contracting partner in their own place of domicile (consumer forum).
He can however launch an individual claim in his own country of Austria, the court said but cannot do it on behalf of the 25,000 supporters he had amassed.
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This case is separate to the more famous, ongoing and hugely costly battle with Facebook that he launched in Ireland, where the biz has its European headquarters.
So far as the status of consumer is concerned, the ECJ points out that the consumer forum applies, in principle, only where the contract between the parties has been concluded for the objective of a use of the relevant goods or services that is other than a trade or professional use.
Schrems celebrated the fact he was now able to sue Facebook in Vienna, rather than having to go through the courts in the nation the business is based. "However, it limits consumer rights to "contract partner" only, so no class action".
A nonbinding November ruling said Schrems could sue as an individual but couldn't bring a class action, which are far less common in Europe than in the United States.
"We were pleased to have been able to present our case to the European Court of Justice and now look forward to resolving this matter".
Schrems first filed the lawsuit against Facebook Ireland in 2014, following revelations released by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.