The legal proceeding in which Max Schrems is accusing Facebook of data privacy violations in connection with his personal Facebook account and the accounts of seven other Facebook users is pending since 2014. On 25 January 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) at least resolved the question of jurisdiction.
Schrems based the jurisdiction of the Regional Civil Court in Vienna on the Council Regulation (EC) on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (EuGVVO). According to this Regulation, a consumer may bring proceedings against an entrepreneur in the courts for the place where the consumer is domiciled. However, Schrems did not just evoke this jurisdiction in respect of his own claims against Facebook, but also for the claims assigned to him by seven additional Facebook users from Austria, Germany and India.
Even according to previous case law of the ECJ, the consumer jurisdiction of the EuGVVO only benefits consumers in so far as they are, in their personal capacity, the plaintiff or defendant in proceedings. An applicant who is not himself a party to the consumer contract in question cannot enjoy the benefit of the jurisdiction relating to consumer contracts. This applies not only to the assignment of claims to a (consumer protection) organization for the purposes of legal enforcement (e.g. in the scope of collective actions) but also – as the ECJ has now clarified – in case of an assignment to another consumer. Accordingly, the ECJ affirmed that the Viennese court had jurisdiction for Schrems' claims but denied this jurisdiction in respect of the additional users.
In the opinion of the Advocate General at the ECJ, it is not the role of courts to attempt at creating collectiv redress in consumer matters; instead is is in need for comprehensive legislation. We will have to continue waiting for that.
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