Advertiser Says He Can Prove Google Cheats

     SAN JOSE (CN) — Google promises that fewer than 10 percent of hits on its pay-per-click AdWords Program are invalid or fraudulent, though nearly half are, bringing Google billions of dollars in unjust profits each year, an advertiser claims in a class action.
     Gurminder Singh sued Google on July 1, alleging breach of contract, breach of faith and failing to prevent click fraud, in Federal Court.
     AdWords is a pay-per-click program based on keywords. Ads that get more clicks get better placement in search results. Advertisers pay Google only when a user clicks on the ad.
     In AdWords, website publishers get 51 percent of the revenue recognized by Google, and Google keeps 49 percent, Singh says. In a similar Google program, AdSense, on the Google Display Network, website publishers get 68 percent of the revenue and Google keeps 32 percent.
     But the multibillion-dollar Internet ad market is riddled with click fraud.
     “In December 2014, AdWeek reported that digital advertising would take in $43.8 billion during the 2015 calendar year, and estimated that $6.3 billion of that would be based solely upon fraudulent activity,” Singh says in the complaint.
     That comes to 14.4 percent.
     Singh says that “Google promises to protect consumers from fraudulent clicks, including clicks originating from click bots, click farms, and other improper click methods.”
     “Although Google acknowledges that click fraud does occur, it assures users, like plaintiff, that ‘[t]he vast majority of all invalid clicks on AdWords ads are caught by our online filters. These filters are constantly being updated and react to a wide variety of traffic patterns and indications of click fraud attacks. On average, invalid clicks account for less than 10 percent of all clicks on AdWords ads.'”
     Singh says that’s not true, and he proved it by experiment. After paying Google for an AdWords account for eight years, he says, he “conducted a series of experiments to determine whether his Google Display Network advertisements were being fraudulently manipulated, and if so to calculate the extent of such fraud.”
     “Upon completion, plaintiff’s experiments revealed rampant, widespread invalid click activity on ads within plaintiff’s advertising campaign, at a rate between forty (40) and forty-eight (48) percent of total clicks on the Google Display Network, for each of which Google collects 32 percent of the total advertising proceeds. Across the entirety of AdWords’ United States user base, these invalid clicks result in billions of dollars in additional profits for Google on
     Singh ran the experiments to determine if his advertisements were being manipulated by fraudulent clicks. He ran four ads- two pairs of “standard” and “experimental” ads that he monitored.
     Singh said he conducted his experiment by running ads with normal and nonsensical text and comparing the results. He found a fraudulent click rate of 40 percent and 48 percent respectively.
     The experiment, he says, shows “the large-scale impact of click bots, click farms, and other improper click methods employed by third-party publishers and website owners on AdWords and AdSense.”
     He seeks class certification, disgorgement of unjust profits, restitution, damages and costs o suit.
     Google’s AdSense has been the subject of similar litigation, including other class actions.
     In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Google’s appeal of a similar class action, and allowed the class to proceed with claims that the company misled advertisers about the placement of their ads.
     And in May, a federal judge in San Jose sided with plaintiffs and refused to dismiss several of four AdSense advertisers’ claims against Google.
     Singh’s lead attorney is Kyle Bates with Schneider Wallace Cottrell Konecky & Wotkyns, in Emeryville.

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