Google Keeps Quiet About Legal Victory

Matt O'Conner
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — As Google prepares to defend itself against click fraud charges in two separate lawsuits, the search engine has quietly posted a victory in a click fraud case of its own.

In May, the Santa Clara County Superior Court granted Google a $75,000 judgment against Adsense customer Auctions Expert for “artificially or fraudulently” generating clicks on ads that appeared on the firm’s site.

Google alleged in the suit that Auctions Expert paid dozens of people to click on ads Google had served up to the Auctions Expert webpage to artificially inflate click rates. Auctions Expert was paid for each click generated from its webpage, in effect bilking advertisers out of at least $50,000.

When Google first filed suit against Auction Experts in November 2004, the company trumpeted the move as part of its ongoing anti-fraud efforts.

But Google has not publicized its May victory, perhaps because of negative news reports and persistent charges from plaintiffs in two pending lawsuits against Google that contend the company still isn’t doing enough to prevent overcharges.

In an April 2005 class-action suit filed in Arkansas and led by retailer Lane’s Gifts & Collectibles, one group of Google advertisers allege that they have been overpaying for advertising due to illegitimate hits on their links and banners and that Google was aware of the problem but continued to overcharge them.

In addition to Google, the suit names as defendants Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Time Warner (AOL), Walt Disney, Daum Communications (Lycos), LookSmart and FindWhat.

In a separate suit filed in June, Colorado-based Click Defense, a pay-per-click monitoring company, accused Google of failing to “take any significant measures to track or prevent” fraud and failed to warn potential customers of the risk of fraud.

The case has the potential to become a class-action suit on behalf of all Google customers since 2000.