Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich raised concerns regarding possible consumer abuse in a Google class-action settlement.
On Friday, Brnovich, together with 18 other state attorneys general, filed an amici curiae brief with the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the matter.
They requested the high court to protect consumers from abuse when it decides on the appeal of the class-action settlement in the Google Referrer Header Privacy Litigation.
Consumers will Not Receive Compensation from the Google Class-Action Settlement
The search engine giant settled the privacy complaint for $8.5 million. However, consumers will not receive any money from the settlement.
Instead, $3.2 million was set aside for attorney’s fees and administrative costs. The remaining $5.3 million will go to six “cy pres” organizations that had nothing to do with the lawsuit.
State Attorneys General Request a Ban on Cy Pres-only Settlements
The cy pres doctrine allows courts to rewrite the terms of an agreement or settlement to be as close as possible to the original intention if the original terms are impossible to carry out or illegal.
In the amici curiae brief, Brnovich and his colleagues encouraged the U.S. Supreme Court to prohibit cy pres-only settlement agreements. They argued that such deals — just like the Google settlement at issue — harm consumers.
“Cy pres-only settlement arrangements embody the worst flaws of the class-action settlement system and are notable in their disservice to consumers,” they argued.
Additionally, the attorneys general noted that cy pres-only deals enable defendants and class counsel to obtain their goals in the litigation. However, class members are left out because they don’t receive any payment. The settlement fund is diverted to third parties.
“In the absence of a direct benefit to the class, a proposed cy pres settlement cannot pass muster under basic conceptions of fairness,” the attorneys general said.
In a statement, Brnovich said, “Class-action lawsuits should be about protecting consumers and obtaining justice. Unfortunately, in this settlement with Google, the money is lining the pockets of attorneys and select organizations, instead of going to the harmed individuals. Our office is fighting to stop this tactic.”