Hagens Berman, a consumer rights law firm, today filed a national
class-action lawsuit against Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), claiming the company
unlawfully denies payments to thousands of website owners and operators
who place ads on their sites sold through Google AdWords.
The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District
of California, alleges that Google abruptly cancels website owners'
AdSense accounts often without explanation shortly before payments are
due, and refuses to pay for the ads that ran prior to the cancelation.
"This wrongful practice has sparked numerous bitter complaints from
website owners across the Web, with some reporting losses reaching
thousands of dollars a pop," said Steve Berman, attorney representing
consumers and founding partner of Hagens Berman. "What we believe to be
true from our research is that Google's practice is likely hurting
thousands of website owners and operators who feel they have no way to
fight a giant company like Google."
According to the suit, Google's popular AdSense program translates
annually to billions of dollars payable to website operators that host
its ads via AdSense. Google's AdSense advertising program induces
website operators to host space for ads on their websites. Each time a
visitor to the website interacts with the ad, the ad publisher who hosts
the ad earns payment.
The complaint claims that the contracts and terms of service Google
requires web publishers to sign are unconscionably one-sided, giving
Google free reign to embark on what the suit claims are actions devoid
of good faith or fair dealing.
"We have heard from Web publishers who tell us the same thing: Google
cuts them off right before a payment is due, nd stonewalls them when
they object," Berman said. "Google's company motto is 'Don't be evil.'
Knowing what we know, I think they have a lot of work to do to be true
to that goal."
The complaint states, "Given Google's contractual terms purportedly
permitting it to withhold payment to publishers with disabled accounts,
and in light of the experience of the plaintiff in seeing this policy
actually effected, the total of earned funds that Google has refused to
pay its AdSense publishers could be enormous."
The lawsuit claims Google is in violation of contracts with users and in
violation of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, unjust
enrichment, and violation of the California Unfair Competition Law.
The named plaintiff, Free Range Content, Inc., is a California
corporation that owns and operates Repost.us. Free Range Content first
noticed a spike in AdSense earnings in Feb. 2014. At the end of Feb.
2014, Google issued a report stating that the plaintiff's estimated
earnings for the covered period were over $40,000 - a number that seemed
far too high. Then on March 4, 2014-two days before a scheduled March 6,
2014 call with an AdSense representative was slated to occur-the
plaintiff received word from the AdSense program that Google had
disabled its account.
The lawsuit seeks damages for all U.S. Google AdSense publishers whose
AdSense account was disabled or terminated, and whose last AdSense
program payment was withheld permanently by Google.
Concerned consumers are encouraged to contact a Hagens Berman attorney
by emailing GoogleAdSense@hbsslaw.com
or calling (206) 623-7292.
Additional information about the investigation is available at http://www.hbsslaw.com/cases-and-investigations/cases/Google-AdSense.
Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP is a consumer-rights class-action law
firm with offices in nine cities. The firm has been named to the
National Law Journal's Plaintiffs' Hot List seven times. More about the
law firm and its successes can be found at www.hbsslaw.com.
The firm's class-action law blog is located at www.classactionlawtoday.com.
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