United Kingdom

On behalf of the team

On 8 March 2022, the England and Wales High Court issued its judgment in SMOv TikTok Inc. and others.[1]SMO (a child) (by their litigation friend (acting as a representative claimant pursuant to CPR 19.6) ) v TikTok Inc. and others [2022] EWHC 489 The case concerned a representative claim brought by a child and her litigation friend, the (now former) Children’s Commissioner for England, on behalf of a class of children under the age of 16 who use or have used TikTok in the UK. According to SMO, TikTok invades the privacy of children and misuses their private information, in violation of the Data Protection Act 2018 and the UK GDPR. The defendants are six TikTok entities within various jurisdictions.

To start the case, SMO sent one letter of claim to all defendants, without the required pre-action correspondence. SMO did so in expectation of Supreme Court’s judgment in Lloyd v. Google (discussed in Q4 2021). SMO then requested a stay of proceedings, awaiting the outcome of Lloyd v. Google, which was granted by the High Court. This meant that SMO had until 30 December 2021 to serve out the claim (the required pre-action correspondence) to the foreign TikTok entities. SMO did not, however, succeed in serving the entities in the United States and China within this timeframe.

The question before the High Court now was whether SMO could be granted a (further) extension to serve the claim to these entities.  The High Court refused to grant this request because SMO did not provide a valid reason to have postponed serving the other entities. As a result, SMO only successfully served two out of the six defendants. Namely, TikTok Information Technologies Limited and TikTok Technology Limited, based in the United Kingdom and Ireland.