As if the onus of being hit with a huge fine (up to £4.3 billion) from the European Commission weren’t enough, Google will now have to deal with another, rather unusual threat: the Google Redress & Integrity Platform (GRIP). In essence, GRIP is a website—operated by a public relations firm—that makes it easy for companies, who think they might have been abused by Google’s dominant position in search, to squeeze some redress (i.e. reparations or damages) out of the US company. Some might consider this the high-tech equivalent of ambulance chasing.
GRIP is being run by Avisa, a “niche public affairs company,” assisted by Hausfeld, a specialist competition law firm. GRIP might sound like some kind of digital crusade for a purer, more upstanding online world, but of course it’s all about money. In the wake of the European Commission sending a formal “Statement of Objections” to Google alleging the company has abused its dominant position in the EU’s general search market, GRIP aims to help those who think they have suffered as result of this abuse to sue Google for some small, spendable token of its contrition. As its website proclaims: “the idea behind GRIP is not just to seek redress for victims, but to actually get it.”
Here’s how it works: “As soon as we receive your application, we will contact you to find out more about your story and assess how Google’s conduct may have impacted you and/or your business.” Applications will be considered on a case-by-case basis by Avisa, which will pick out those it thinks most likely to win in court. Once past this initial filtering stage, Avisa then refers the case to Hausfeld for yet another assessment of its chances.
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