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Class Isn’t Suitable for Facebook Ad Fraud Suit

(CN) - Advertisers who claim Facebook overcharges them for fraudulent or bogus clicks cannot sue the website as a class, a federal judge in San Jose, Calif., ruled.

RootZoo Inc., Fox Test Prep and Steven Price said in a federal class action that Facebook's system of requiring advertisers to pay for each "billable click" on their ads is flawed because the website does not manage which clicks are "valid."

"Instead, advertisers have been and continue to be unlawfully charged for and presently pay for a panoply of 'invalid clicks' resulting from deficiencies in Facebook's advertising platform," according to the second amended complaint.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton refused to certify the class last week.

Though the plaintiffs met some of the requirements to represent a class, they could not show clearly what constituted their contract with Facebook or prove they were injured, Hamilton found.

"Common issues do not predominate in this case because plaintiffs have no classwide method to parse the millions of clicks in this case to segregate the 'invalid' clicks they seek to challenge from the 'fraudulent' clicks that are no longer part of the case and therefore are not actionable, and the 'valid' clicks that are not at issue in the case and are therefore not actionable," the order states.

The court also found the plaintiffs could not use Facebook's glossary definitions of "clicks" for their ad services as extrinsic evidence for their breach of contract claim.

"If the contract at issue here were truly a standardized form contract, plaintiffs' argument would have more merit," Hamilton wrote. "But where, as here, the contract presents such a moving target, the court cannot find that class certification is appropriate."

"Moreover, 'extrinsic evidence is not admissible to add to, detract from, or vary the terms of a written [integrated] contract,' but only to interpret the terms in the contract," the decision continues, citing precedent.

Hamilton's predecessor on the case, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel, struck claims from the case in December 2010.

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