Following the referral of the High Court to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in Schrems v Data Protection Commissioner (No.2)  IEHC 351, as reported in two previous blogs, the plaintiff in that case, Max Schrems, has successfully signed up over 25,000 applicants to pursue a quasi "class action" suit against Facebook Ireland Limited in a civil case before the Commercial Court for Vienna.
The number of applicants was capped at 25,000 for practical reasons with the cap being reached within a week of its launch and as of Friday 8th August the number of applicants stood at over 45,000.
The action has been taken in Austria as Mr. Schrems is an Austrian resident and under EU law consumers can sue businesses at the relevant court of their home country. Austrian procedural law does not provide a US style "class action". However, it is possible to group claims by "assigning" them to one person who can then sue on behalf of others, the single plaintiff later redistributes the awarded amount. Under this system it is possible to file a quasi "class action" in Austria. Mr. Schrems is the primary applicant in this suit with other interested parties assigning their claims to him to act on their behalf.
The case follows on from Mr. Schrems claims that Facebook’s data collection policies contravene EU law and that a European Commission Decision, that the Safe Harbour regime between Europe and the US provides adequate protection for personal data, should be reconsidered.
The class action will run in parallel to the case that has been referred to the CJEU. For further details of the history of this litigation, please see our previous blogs on this case.