Israeli Consumers Win Case to Sue Apple in Local Court

Efrat Neuman
Efrat Neuman
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Apple CEO Tim Cook
Apple CEO Tim CookCredit: Jeff Chiu
Efrat Neuman
Efrat Neuman

Israelis are justified in suing multinational tech giants in local courts, a Tel Aviv District Court judge ruled in a sharply worded rebuke against the multinationals’ attempts to force Israeli consumers into foreign court proceedings.

The most recent ruling relates to a class action request filed against Apple in 2019, arguing that Apple had gone on charging consumers even after they removed paid applications. Now, a year and a half later, Tel Aviv District Court Judge Rachel Arkooby ruled that Apple can indeed be sued in Israel, paving the way for other suits against other multinational tech companies as well.

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In order to sue a foreign company, an Israeli plaintiff can either file a procedural request to sue a party outside the court’s jurisdiction, or sue a local subsidiary instead. After that, the companies also have other ways of dragging out the process before the case is even heard.

In a ruling delivered last week, Arkooby stated that global Apple could be handed the suit so that it could be held in Israel. In her ruling, she included an unusual rebuke for Apple and other multinationals that have invested efforts in preventing Israeli consumers from suing them locally.

“In the name of efficiency regarding court time, expenses and utility, these firms should consider their defense regarding the main issue. Regarding receiving the suit itself, they should consider whether it is efficient to dedicate significant resources to this, when basic fairness necessitates giving a platform to Israeli consumers facing massive companies.”

A company as large as Apple with operations around the globe would be expected to enable its consumers access to local courts, she said. “I don’t find it acceptable that Apple can sell its products here but then argue that the court doesn’t have the authority to hear a suit against it, when it has the financial, business and legal means to handle local proceedings anywhere it operates, and with the best law firms at that,” she said.

Arkooby charged Apple 15,000 shekels in legal fees.

The Apple Inc logo is seen hanging at the entrance to the Apple store on 5th Avenue in Manhattan, New York, U.S., October 16, 2019. Credit: Mike Segar/ REUTERS

A local court also recently ruled against Twitter. In that case, the journalist Linoy Bar Geffen had sued the social network after a tweet denouncing her wasn’t taken down in a timely manner. In this case, too, the court ruled to allow the case to be heard in Israel. Tel Aviv District Court Judge Hedva Weinbaum-Wolecki charged Twitter 15,000 shekels in fees. Twitter was represented by the Herzog, Fox & Neeman law firm. In the final ruling, the court stated that the company’s defense smacked of sexism and victim blaming.

“Social networks cannot expect that someone interested in suing them would do so in a foreign court, in the place where the company happens to have its offices. Offering services around the world comes with the risk of being sued in those places,” she wrote.

The class-action suit naming Apple states that users who install paid apps from the Appstore are charged even after uninstalling them because the platform does not inform them that merely uninstalling the app is not enough to stop payments.

The plaintiffs argued that Apple Ireland, the subsidiary that handles Apple’s Israeli business, should be subject to California law, in keeping with the company’s user agreement, and that the U.S. company then needs to be held subject to Israeli law.

The plaintiffs received clearance to sue the foreign firms, which then countered that this should be canceled via attorney Yoav Oestreicher of the Meitar Law Firm. Oestreicher argued that Israel was not the proper place to hear the suit and that the plaintiffs had no case.

Arkooby rejected the argument that Apple had no operations in Israel, countering that the company has a broad customer base here as in many other countries, and that this was a disingenuous argument. The company’s worldwide reach is what enables its revenues, she stated.

She also found that the case was very relevant to Israel – the plaintiffs are Israelis, they used Apple’s services while in Israel, made the payment while in Israel, uninstalled the app in Israel and were overcharged in Israel – therefore it’s reasonable to hear the case in Israel, she said.

Attorney Adam Levin of the Rapoport Biton Levin law firm, who is representing the plaintiffs, noted that the case proves that multinational giants that sell products and services to local Israelis cannot drag them to foreign courts in the case of disagreements.

“The sharp tone of the ruling speaks for itself,” stated attorney Shaul Zioni, who is handling the class-action suit against Apple.

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