Suit Over Click Fraud on Google’s AdWords Tossed

(CN) – An advertiser who claimed almost half of the hits on Google’s AdWords program were invalid or fraudulent couldn’t convince a federal judge that his class action should go forward.

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, plaintiff Gurminder Singh said. In a similar Google program, AdSense on the Google Display Network, website publishers get 68 percent of the revenue and Google keeps 32 percent.

Singh said in his lawsuit that “Google promises to protect consumers from fraudulent clicks, including clicks originating from click bots, click farms, and other improper click methods.”

He added, “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 said that’s not true, and he proved it by experiment. After paying Google for an AdWords account for eight years, he said, 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.”

Google argued Singh’s claim for breach of the implied covenant should be dismissed because the AdWords program does not promise that the tech giant will protect advertisers from fraudulent clicks.

U.S. District Judge Beth Labson Freeman agreed with Google, noting the company acknowledged that click-fraud happens and advertisers can be charged for them.

“There is no factual support for plaintiff’s assertion that Google misrepresented the likelihood that customers would actually incur charges for a significant volume of invalid clicks,” Freeman wrote in the 12-page ruling.

The judge also called Singh’s experiment “utterly implausible” and said it “would not be admissible in any form” – as was his evidence from a 2013 article in The Atlantic.

“Neither the experiment nor the magazine article says anything about the efficacy of Google’s filters. And plaintiff does not adequately allege that he was ever charged for invalid clicks,” Freeman wrote.

Singh has a shot to amend his complaint with more specific allegations.

Google’s AdSense has been the subject of similar litigation, including other class actions. In June 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Google’s appeal of a similar class action, allowing the class to proceed with claims that the company misled advertisers about the placement of their ads.

A month before that ruling, a federal judge in San Jose sided with plaintiffs and refused to dismiss several of four AdSense advertisers’ claims against Google.


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