Attorney General: Facebook can be sued in Israel

In opinion to Supreme Court, AG writes Facebook can be sued in Israel despite standard contract by which company can only be sued in US.

Mordechai Sones ,

Facebook safety
Facebook safety

In an opinion submitted by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit to the Supreme Court, he stated that Facebook can be sued in Israel, according to Kikar Shabbat. Mandelblit added that Facebook's rule that it can be sued only in the one place it chooses, a condition appearing in its usage regulations, is illegal because this is a depriving condition in a uniform contract and is therefore not binding.

International Internet companies operating in Israel such as Google and Facebook will no longer be able to prevent Israeli users from submitting claims against them in Israel and under Israeli law. Mandelblit recently submitted his opinion to the Supreme Court as part of a request to approve a class action lawsuit against Facebook managed by Ohad Ben-Hamou.

The Supreme Court, which will adopt Mandelblit's position, will also join in the position of the District Courts in Israel that have adopted the understanding that users can sue Facebook in Israel. This means that Israelis will now be able to manage in Israel and under local law regular claims and class actions against Facebook and similar companies.

The legal advisor's position was presented in the context of a hearing on the appeal of a decision to file a class action suit filed by Ohad Ben-Hamou, through attorneys Amit Manor and Yaki Shemesh, against Facebook, claiming that Facebook makes commercial use of private messages sent by users of the social network to each other, a prohibited privacy breach if done without obtaining the consent of the customers as required by law. The compensation sought for Israeli customers is not less than $400 million.

In June 2016, Central District Court Judge Shoshana Satmar ruled that the terms of use of the Facebook network, which stipulate a "jurisdiction and foreign jurisdiction clause," according to which claims filed by Facebook customers will be heard in the United States according to the law of the State of California, "intends to deprive the Israeli client from realizing his legal rights." The judge ruled that this condition is therefore null and void, thus paving the way for Israeli clients to sue Facebook in Israel.

The decision was made after Facebook sought to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that upon joining the social network, Israeli users agreed to Facebook's terms of use, which state that disputes between Facebook and users should be investigated in California under Californian law.

Ben-Hamou claimed in response that this condition constitutes a depriving condition in a uniform contract, and that the consent of the users to the condition was made without their being aware of the consent. The judge accepted Ben-Hamou's claims, inter alia, based on a previous ruling in a case involving PayPal.

According to the Attorney General, he sees great importance in establishing fair norms in this area of foreign jurisdiction in uniform contracts regarding products and services distributed to customers in their country of residence (docket 5860/16). Ben-Hamou filed the class action suit in the amount of $400 million in June 2016, claiming that Facebook violated and systematically affected the privacy of surfers.