Google is defrauding its advertising customers by charging them for clicks from “parked” websites that Google knows are worthless, according to a federal class action lawsuit filed today by Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California in San Jose.
Google places ads on Google.com and on third-party websites. Its customers are charged whenever their ad is “clicked.” Ads appear on third-party websites based on keywords that the customer selects. For example, an ad for a hardware store may appear on a website about home improvement projects.
The “parked” sites at issue in the suit, however, contain no content or useful information — just ads. The sole purpose of those sites is to generate ad revenue for Google and the site owner, while not providing any benefit to the ad customer.
“The supposed advantage of Google advertising is that it’s targeted,” said Brian Kabateck, Managing Partner of Kabateck Brown Kellner. “If Google is simply placing ads anywhere they can make a buck, one has to seriously question the value of their advertising program.”
Kabateck recently won a multi-million dollar settlement from Yahoo! and was part of an earlier $90 million settlement from Google on behalf of advertisers who were victimized by “click fraud” to which the company turned a blind eye. He is also currently representing Google customers whose ads were placed on third-party sites when they only wanted their ads to appear on Google.com.
According to the lawsuit filed today, Google did not disclose to its advertisers the web addresses of the parked domains where their ads were placed and clicked on, leaving customers with no ability to evaluate, much less dispute, the validity of the clicks for which they were charged. Google failed to provide this information despite the fact that ads placed on parked domains are a constant source of invalid clicks.
Google customers’ ads are placed on parked domains automatically. Only after registering, and through a complicated process, can customers “opt out” and exclude their ads from being placed on parked domains.
The plaintiff in this case was charged for several clicks originating from parked domains, with no additional information given by Google as to the nature or specific source of these clicks beyond the designation “parked domain.”
The plaintiff examined charges to his account from unknown domains labeled only as “parked domains.” Upon further inspection, the plaintiff realized that he was paying for traffic originating from parked domains that had little relation to his business.