Max Schrems can sue Facebook, but only as a consumer

Max Schrems

Max Schrems

Though the November 14 decision is not available in English, a press release on the case says Maximilian Schrems lodged his complaint against Facebook Ireland in his home country of Austria.

Seven other Facebook users, living in in Austria, Germany and India, had assigned their claims for allegations of the same violations to Schrems.

Though he initially used the social network for private purposes exclusively, under a false name, he has used a Facebook account under his name since 2010 and he created a Facebook page in 2011.

Schrems can only sue Facebook in Ireland as Max Schrems, not on behalf of 25,000 users.

Schrems has published two books just about this case.

Mr Schrems had been seeking to claim 500 euros ($586; £448) in damages per person for about 25,000 people.

A run-in with Facebook is nothing new for the activist, who was responsible for bringing the case that resulted in the EU's highest court declaring in 2015 that Safe Harbor, the US-Europe data-sharing pact, was illegal. "Today's opinion supports the decisions of two courts that Mr. Schrems" claims can not proceed as "class action' on behalf of other consumers in Austrian courts", the spokesperson said in a statement.

Advocate General Michal Bobek advised the Luxembourg-based court Tuesday that Schrems should still be able to rely on his consumer status.

As for Facebook questioning Schrems status as a consumer eligible to bring such a claim, the advocate-general noted that he originally signed up to Facebook as a consumer and only later added a professional account.

Bobek also clarified that Austrian courts have jurisdiction over Facebook's subsidiary in Dublin.

"Knowledge, experience, civic engagement or the fact of having reached certain renown due to litigation do not in themselves prevent someone from being a consumer", the press release on Bobek's opinion continues.

He wrote: "A consumer who is entitled to sue his foreign contact partner in his own place of domicile, can not involve, at the same time as his own claims, claims on the same subject assigned by other consumers".

The advocate general was responding to a request for clarity from Vienna's supreme court on its own jurisdiction over the case and the issue of class action lawsuits. "It could lead to unrestrained targeted assignment to consumers in any jurisdiction with more favourable case-law, lower costs or more generous jurisdictional aid, potentially leading to the overburdening of some jurisdictions".

The advocate general added that there should be some form of collective redress for consumer protection, but that this was better served by legislation than the courts. We need the European Union to take their responsibility and to introduce an effective EU-wide tool for the collective enforcement of consumer rights.

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