Lawsuit Claims Google Allegedly Sells Third Party Information Without Permission

Vendors who share customers’ personal identifying information (name, email address, phone number, zip code, etc.) is a major issue in the world of consumer law today. Vendors (particularly online and mobile vendors) are often tempted to take a customer’s payment information and then sell it to a third party after the transaction has been completed. That third party can then use the customer’s information however they want.

Because of consumers’ numerous complaints about the flagrant mishandling of their personal information, many companies have begun either revealing in their Terms of Service contracts that they might distribute a customer’s personal information, or promising not to reveal their customers’ personal information to a third party, unless it’s required to complete a transaction, or for legal reasons. When given an option between a vendor that sells personal information and a similar vendor that maintains their customers’ privacy, most customers will choose the vendor that respects their privacy.

This issue is at the heart of a recent consumer class action lawsuit filed against Google in California. The company’s Wallet users, who can buy apps through Google Play, agreed to Google’s Terms of Service and privacy policy every time they purchased an app through Google’s Wallet feature. According to the consumer lawsuit, Google’s Terms of Service assure customers their private information will not be shared with any third-party vendors unless it is necessary to do so in order to complete the transaction, or for legal purposes. But the lawsuit alleges that, despite these promises, Google shared the personal information of its Wallet customers with third parties, even after having completed the purchase.

As evidence to back up their claims, the plaintiffs pointed out that Google takes a 30% cut of every app sale, and that Google took its cut prior to selling consumer information, which allegedly proves Google did not need to distribute consumers’ information to complete the transaction.

In addition to breach of contract, the lawsuit further accused Google of unjust enrichment and unfair competition. In their complaint, plaintiffs pointed to Google Play’s competitor, Microsoft’s Windows Phone Store, which the complaint said was almost identical to Google Play’s offerings. It pointed out that many of the same apps and vendors that sell on Google Play can also be found in the Windows Phone Store, and that Microsoft takes a similar cut of every app sale while also promising customers that it will not sell their personal information to third parties.

Because Google allegedly broke its covenant of good faith with its Google Play customers, the complaint alleges Google unfairly benefited and profited from false promises that it would not distribute their information. The idea is that, if customers knew Google was actually selling their information, despite promises to do otherwise, they would shop in the Windows Phone Store instead.

The consumer class action lawsuit is seeking to represent a class of all the customers throughout the country who bought an app in the Google Play Store that cost less than $300 between March 2012 and April 2014.

The lawsuit was initially filed in California state court, but Google filed a motion to have it moved to federal court, and the judge obliged, saying that Google had convincingly demonstrated the total claims of the case were worth well over $5 million.

Our Oak Brook, Illinois consumer rights private law firm handles individual and class action gift card, data breach, privacy rights, deceptive advertising, predatory lending, unfair debt collection, lemon law, and other consumer fraud cases that government agencies and public interest law firms such as the Illinois Attorney General may not pursue. Class action lawsuits our law firm has been involved in or spear-headed have led to substantial awards totaling over a million dollars to organizations including the National Association of Consumer Advocatesthe National Consumer Law Center, and local law school consumer programs. The Chicago consumer lawyers at Lubin Austermuehle are proud of our achievements in assisting national and local consumer rights organizations to obtain the funds needed to ensure that consumers are protected and informed of their rights. By standing up to consumer fraud and consumer rip-offs, and in the right case filing consumer protection lawsuits and class-actions you too can help ensure that other consumers’ rights are protected from consumer rip-offs and unscrupulous or dishonest practices.

Our Evanston and Gurnee consumer attorneys provide assistance in data breach, privacy violation, fair debt collection, consumer fraud and consumer rights cases including in Illinois and throughout the country. You can click here to see a description of the some of the many individual and class-action consumer cases our Chicago consumer lawyers have handled. A video of our lawsuit which helped ensure more fan friendly security at Wrigley Field can be found here. You can contact one of our Aurora and Wheaton consumer protection, gift card and data breach attorneys who can assist in consumer fraud, consumer rip-off, lemon law, unfair debt collection, predatory lending, wage claims, unpaid overtime and other consumer, or consumer class action cases by filling out the contact form at the side of this blog or by clicking here.  You can also call our toll-free number at 630-333-0333.

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