MINNEAPOLIS (CN) - A company that provides online leads for the construction industry claims that Reed Elsevier damaged its business by initiating "millions of electronic 'clicks'" on its website - "causing its highly robust computer system to fail" - and manipulating its online ad links. BidClerk claims that Reed Elsevier disregarded its website's "Terms of Service," and used denial of service attacks, click fraud, and "impression fraud" to hurt its relationships with customers.
BidClerk's website "serves as a meeting place for all parties within a construction project, from owners and architects to contractors and suppliers," allowing contractors "to find construction projects within local markets that meet their exact criteria," the company says in its federal complaint.
The website "provides tools that enable users to connect with each other, download project contract data, manage projects and advertise their business." BidClerk provides leads, but aside from that "is not involved in the projects directly," according to the complaint. To operate at all, it must have a reliable website.
After tracing an originating IP address to Reed Elsevier, BidClerk says it discovered that since March, Reed Business Information (RBI) - a division of Reed Elsevier - has been repeatedly attacking its website. BidClerk claims it found that in less than two days, Reed had flooded BidClerk's servers with more than 3.7 million web requests.
BidClerk says that on June 24, "the deluge of web traffic from RBI was so severe that it caused BidClerk's highly robust computer system to fail and become unavailable to BidClerk's users."
BidClerk adds: "When the denial-of-service attacks caused BidClerk's website to fail, BidClerk's customers were unable to access the site to conduct business, arrange bids, and utilize services for which they pay a monthly fee. This interference caused BidClerk to lose valuable customer goodwill and interfered with BidClerk's reputation for providing consistent, efficient service."
BidClerk has "pay per click" ad service with Google, and Reed Elsevier made "hundreds of thousands" of fraudulent electronic clicks on BidClerk's online ads, the company says. It claims that "one URL was requested over 50,000 times by signals emanating from RBI's IP address."
BidClerk claims that Reed also engaged in "impression fraud," in which it performs a Google search using keywords relating to BidClerk's services, then does not click on the ads that pop up, wasting BidClerk's resources, as it pays Google "per impression" or exposure, to the market as well.
"If a competitor engages in enough 'impression fraud' the company's 'click through rate' or CTR - which measures the percentage of users who click on an ad - substantially decreases," BidClerk says. "The lower the CTR, the lower the ad positioning, until it drops out of the search engine's rankings." This causes the company to pay for advertising that may not reach its target audience, BidClerk says.
BidClerk says it contacted Reed about the "suspicious web traffic," and that Reed failed to investigate as it promised, or to provide BidClerk with any information.
BidClerk demands an injunction and damages from Reed for violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, breach of contract, fraudulent and negligent misrepresentation, conversion and trespass, tortious interference and deceptive trade.
Its lead counsel is Randall Kahnke with Faegre & Benson.