(Reuters) – A Moscow law firm that has filed cases against Apple and Netflix over what it says are consumer rights violations is aiming to “punish” other Western companies that have quit Russia, its senior partner told Reuters.
A lot of mainly Western companies have said they will pause or halt operations in Russia since President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Netflix stopped all future projects and acquisitions in Russia in March and suspended its streaming service. Apple restricted the use of its Apple Pay service and stopped all exports into its Russia sales channels.
The law firm, Chernyshov, Lukoyanov & Partners, filed two class action lawsuits in April, seeking 60 million roubles ($948,617) in moral damages for Netflix users and 90 million roubles from Apple for reducing its devices’ functionality and value. Those figures could rise as more people join.
Netflix and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Konstantin Lukoyanov, senior partner with Chernyshov, Lukoyanov & Partners that has invited aggrieved Russians to come forward with complaints against exiting companies, said the number of potential claims had surprised him.
“We have only now realised how many consumers feel their rights have been violated,” Lukoyanov said in an interview. “Every day we are getting calls with some new story.
“At the start of our journey, we thought there would be three, four or five big companies, but in fact there are many more,” he said, declining to give specific names.
Lukoyanov said the goal of his firm’s lawsuits was twofold – to establish precedents in Russia’s nascent tradition of class action suits and to “seriously punish” companies that leave.
He expects Russia’s judicial system to rule in favour of Russian consumers, but acknowledged that people may only hope to see compensation should companies choose to come back some day.
“We are counting on companies being compelled to return to the Russian market and then having to close any claims that accumulated before they left,” he said.
Asked how genuine the lawsuits were, Lukoyanov said his firm was treating each case very carefully and seriously, and that if American users were cut off from Apple Pay, no one would be surprised by a class action suit.
“I would not be sceptical about this whole story. It is quite serious. There are no jokes here.”
($1 = 63.2500 roubles)
(Reporting by Reuters. Editing by Jane Merriman)