Google AdSense Class Action Lawsuit

May 22, 2014 • 8:53 am | comments (26) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google AdSense
 

Google AdSense FraudRemember a few weeks ago, those allegations of AdSense fraud leaked by a supposed former Google AdSense employee? I believed them to be fake and still do.

Well, now a lawsuit seeks class action status was filed on Tuesday based on the allegations in the story we reported before.

CNET reports:

The suit relies in part on recent anonymous accusations that Google developed an AdSense fraud scheme in 2009 to prevent publishers from collecting money that Google owed them. AdSense is a major advertiser partner network for Google that accounts for about a quarter of Google's annual revenue. In 2013, Google earned $57.86 billion in revenue.

"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," the filing with the US District Court for the Northern District of California states. The lawsuit is seeking class action status so that it can represent all US-based AdSense users whose accounts were disabled or terminated with their Google refusing to pay them their final payment.

The case was filed by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro on behalf of Free Range Content, the California-based owner of Repost.us, which had been using AdSense to display ads. Free Range Content alleges that it first noticed an unusual jump of $40,000 in its AdSense earnings this past February. The company says that it reported the anomaly to Google, and was scheduled to speak with an AdSense representative on March 6 when Google disabled their account two days before the call. Google, the suit alleges, refused further contact with Free Range Content.

Personally, not being a lawyer or anything, I think the suit will fail. But if it goes on, it will be very interesting to see what documents and numbers become public from this.

At WebmasterWorld, netmeg said the same thing:

Not sure I believe the suit will win, but it'll be interesting to see what if any information comes out of it.

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

Previous story: Google's Matt Cutts: We've Been Discussing The MetaFilter Google Penalty
 

Comments:

newyorker_1

05/22/2014 01:06 pm

I think the money earned by the webmasters should be paid to them even after the account has been suspended. It is just not fair for Google to keep the whole amount no matter the reason. If Google pays back this money to advertisers, then it would make sense, but if it keep it for themselves, then it's theft.

Nene

05/22/2014 01:34 pm

"I think the money earned by the webmasters should be paid to them even after the account has been suspended" LOL

where-the-money-go

05/22/2014 01:43 pm

Where does the money go? If back to the advertisers then PERFECT RESULT. If in Googles pocket, that is fraud. Jail time required on that scale of theft. Anyone know for sure where the money goes? Is it public knowledge?

Michael Martinez

05/22/2014 02:55 pm

What may work against Google in this case is the fact that they agreed to a meeting and then abruptly cancelled the account without a good faith explanation. The court will most likely take a "reasonable person" point of view in determining whether Google acted properly. I'm not saying Free Range Content can win on that basis alone but I would be very surprised if the court threw out the case simply because Google comes back and says, "Well, we told them there was click fraud activity and therefore we felt justified in disabling the account". To a reasonable person, someone engaged in click fraud isn't going to ask for a meeting to figure out why there is a sudden spike in income.

Michael Martinez

05/22/2014 02:56 pm

Google says they refund payment for invalid clicks to advertisers. I have occasionally seen such credits in my own AdWords account.

Aaron

05/22/2014 03:09 pm

Google does not necessarily have to act reasonably in terminating an AdSense account, as publishers do not have a legal right to have Google's ads displayed on their websites. Google's duties are defined by contract. If a site experiences a significant, anomalous spike in income, I suspect that the anomaly would trigger an automatic review. It could be that, upon review, Google found problems that run deeper than the one-time anomaly, perhaps even issues that have nothing to do with the revenue spike. We may (or may not) find out more as the litigation proceeds.

wertwert

05/22/2014 03:58 pm

A contract may not be completely binding if it fails to have consideration for one or more parties.

Michael Martinez

05/22/2014 08:07 pm

The fact they agreed to a meeting with the publisher before canceling the account may be all a court needs to find Google in default on a verbal contract. This may not even go to trial. They could always reach an out-of-court settlement. I don't think Google would want this to go to court, but they do have a record of winning weird cases. This kind of behavior strengthens the perception that Google is a monopoly (and a harmful monopoly at that).

where-the-money-go

05/22/2014 09:54 pm

So would you presume that google classed ALL the clicks as fraud or do you think some were genuine and were not refunded?

Michael Martinez

05/22/2014 10:21 pm

I don't like making assumptions on the basis of so little information.

Paul Ryan

05/23/2014 02:25 am

You are assuming all the claims are true. Often there are things left out or not strictly true. It's a stretch to say Google defaulted on a verbal contract. Having a meeting has nothing to do with the terms that a publisher agrees to when they sign up. If an account owner breached the terms then it is very clear-cut. It seems like this former publisher is just trying to capitalise on the current anti-Google FUD that has made the headlines.

Guest

05/23/2014 03:51 am

I read the letter - well written but it has quite a number of elements that don't add up to it being bona fide. But it does have just enough of some public sentiment to create the appearance of smoke in the air. I'm guessing that the law firm hopes that this letter will assist them in going on a fishing expedition inside AdSense. And by filing a class action, the firm hopes to recover damages (and attorneys' fees) on behalf of everyone else who claims the same thing as opposed to having filed just on behalf of the plaintiff. Interesting timing. Regarding an agreement to meet, that doesn't concede or mean anything. It's possible someone wanted to try a human touch with a large account holder and was warned by counsel that it could result in anything said being used against them in a potential litigation. What will probably be more interesting is, if the case proceeds that far, is how the judge will rule on the scope of discovery.

Johan

05/23/2014 06:12 am

How do we join the action class please ? I got robbed also.

CharlesBiggs

05/23/2014 10:56 am

Wow; gonna be real interesting how this thing pans out.

Juan Martinez

05/23/2014 12:49 pm

REMEMBER GUYS AS CONTENT CREATORS; WE'VE GOT THE POWER!!!

Robert Fisher

05/23/2014 02:59 pm

The bigger issue is do these attorneys have the wherewithal (financially) to battle Google. If they do, this is a beginning shot and not the actual battle. They will have time for interrogatories and discovery and can always amend the petition. What they are able to learn from discovery is where it begins to get more interesting - more so if there is actual malfeasance. Then that discovery can build further questions. etc.

Michael Martinez

05/23/2014 03:16 pm

"You are assuming all the claims are true. " With respect to the lawsuit in question, they have nothing to gain from lying to the court and an attorney risks court action by knowingly filing a false action. It's no stretch to say that Google defaulted on a verbal contract if they agreed to a meeting to resolve an issue raised by the publisher and then suddenly just cancelled the account without warning. The court has to look at where good faith was exercised and as described in the suit the publisher is claiming good faith. Google will have to counter in some way to prove THEY acted in good faith.

wertwert

05/23/2014 04:24 pm

Agreed. Google can and should be more picky about letting publishers into the program. They profit from fraud and by letting anybody into it they grow the fraud. I think ultimately that is where the court will see they hold a responsibility in the matter... what have they done to mitigate damages for advertisers and publishers? it is going to be very one sided. That is going to be a big problem for them in court.

stuffgirlslike

05/24/2014 04:56 am

Google is guilty, I have seen them wipe money out my AdSense account, when I experimented with different positioning. They are hard to get hold of in those situations. There are situations were the traffic multiplies ten fold but the revenue stays the same.

CharlesBiggs

05/24/2014 05:50 am

What I'm wondering is: why schedule a meeting/discussion with the alleged offending publisher and then cancel/disable the account (last minute?) two days before the call and without notice? Certainly there are probably some very valid reasons for doing this but you gotta' admit, that looks a bit sus'. Just adds more fuel to the flame so to speak. And we already know how notorious Google is for their lack of communication and transparency (whether real or perceived) and so this doesn't help the situation either. Crazy stuff!

Paul Ryan

05/27/2014 04:19 pm

Google has the right to cancel it at any time if their terms are violated. That is not a default on a verbal contract, irrespective of any alleged meeting arranged, but the terms in action that the publisher agreed to. It's quite normal that when we sign up for a service we agree to terms and have to abide by them or our account get terminated. It's one thing for Free Range Content to request a meeting, it would be something different if Google had put in writing, "we won't ban you irrespective of any current or past violations, let's fix it." I've read their claims and seriously, look at the majority of court cases - outlandish claims are made, hyped up; it's the nature of suing in the USA!! Make the claims as bold as possible and hope for the best. No change. So yeah, they might stretch their claims and make the fancy, especially if a lawyer says, "it will never get to court." For stupid claims and trying to claim violations, take a look at: http://www.techdirt.com/articles/20110822/12044315618/guy-suing-google-500-billion-now-suing-microsoft-same-amount.shtml And: http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/USCOURTS-txnd-3_11-cv-02227/pdf/USCOURTS-txnd-3_11-cv-02227-0.pdf And: http://www.leagle.com/decision/In%20FCO%2020130530174 So yeah stupid claims are made and end up in court.

Michael Martinez

05/27/2014 04:32 pm

You have to take the principle of "Good Faith" into consideration. If Google was deceptive in agreeing to a meeting to resolve an issue reported by a publisher then they were NOT acting in Good Faith. Of course, the burden of proof is on the accuser but in a civil case they don't have to prove their allegation beyond a reasonable doubt. Much will depend on what the judge thinks is important about the relationship between the two companies.

Paul Ryan

05/27/2014 05:26 pm

"Good faith" works both ways. When you sign up to a service and a company lets you use it then it's in good faith you will adhere to their guidelines. Agreeing to a meeting (if they did) does not constitute "we won't terminate your account", does it? I hope this one does go to court and each side is honest, but it seems more like a desperate attempt to grab some money, riding off the media attention on this so-called "leak".

exbrooklynite

06/03/2014 04:06 am

Only Google knows...and the priests who hear confessions from their employees "in the know".

Ghost Hunter

06/12/2014 08:11 pm

Google did this to me as well... I have a popular web series with about 3,000 dedicated fans from around the world... We followed ad-sense rules to the letter, and when we were due our first check (around $125.00) we were disabled... What really galls me is that we cannot get our account back for life according to them and we did absolutely nothing wrong... If this suit goes through I will be inquiring about how to become part of it.

Piers Johnson

07/17/2014 01:16 am

They defrauded me... two days before I finally crawled to the magical $25 mark, my account was suddenly terminated for "invalid click activity". I mean, really? For $25???

blog comments powered by Disqus