Class Accuses Google of Cheating Advertisers

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Google cheats Google AdSense advertisers by closing their ad accounts just before payments are due to the website owners, a class action claims in Federal Court.
     Lead plaintiff Free Range Content, of San Francisco, claims Google intentionally closes AdSense accounts to deny full payment to website owners. The amount each website owner and publisher loses can range from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars per year, according to the 22-page lawsuit.
     "The AdSense program is enormously popular. This popularity translates annually to billions of dollars payable to AdSense publishers - Google's parlance for website operators that host its ads," the complaint states. "But as the plaintiff and many other publishers have found, Google often shuts down AdSense accounts shortly before a periodic payment is due and then denies the publisher the entirety of the expected payment, notwithstanding all the ads the publisher already has served to visitors to its website during the payment period."
     AdSense is an advertising service created by Google, which places advertisements on high-traffic websites. When visitors view or interact with the ads, the website owners are supposed to collect a portion of the advertising fees Google collects from the advertisers. But the class claims that due to the way Google runs the program, many website owners wind up being paid nothing.
     "It is Google's wrongful refusal to pay terminated AdSense publishers the monies they have earned and are owed that is the subject of this lawsuit," the complaint states. "Google's actions constitute breach of contract, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust enrichment, and violation of the California Unfair Competition Law."
     Free Range seeks class certification, money owed, and damages for unjust enrichment, unfair competition, breach of contract and breach of faith.
     Its lead counsel is Jeff Friedman with Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, of Berkeley.