If you weren’t aware, AdTrader, an advertising platform which combines multiple exchanges, has issued a class action lawsuit against Google back in December 2017.
The lawsuit claims that Google has been illegally appropriating advertiser funds, and an independent investigation from the Wall Street Journal also lead to the same conclusion. Interestingly, Google updated their AdWords contract just six days after this investigation was published, effectively forcing millions of advertisers to waive their rights to a trial by jury, and prohibiting any class actions against Google. Of course, such contracts aren’t always enforceable as we can see here…
Whilst the lawsuit has been undergoing an almost year-long investigation process, Google has finally broken their silence by informing a number of Google Ads users that their advertising account data will be provided to a California federal court on December 5th, 2018.
What’s the AdTrader vs Google Lawsuit All About?
The lawsuit was brought about as a potential class action comprising of users of the DoubleClick bid manager, AdX and AdWords platforms. The lawsuit alleges that Google failed to provide advertisers on these platforms with the appropriate credits when it discovered invalid activity on its publisher network. In short, the lawsuit alleges that Google knew large scale ad-fraud was happening on its publisher networks, but neglected to do anything about it.
The trigger for the lawsuit appears to be the seizure of almost half a million dollars by Google from the independent advertising platform AdTrader. To quote AdTrader:
In May 2017, our four-year partnership with Google’s DoubleClick Ad Exchange (AdX) was abruptly terminated and 476,622.69 USD accrued by our publisher clients were seized from our account. Despite our persistent requests for an explanation, Google did not provide any specific reason for this action.
We confirmed through multiple sources, both within and outside of Google, through our Google invoices, and data collected from Google APIs that Google never actually refunded any of the confiscated publisher earnings to the advertisers. In fact, Google’s own support team admitted that they never had a system in place for such refunds.
Perhaps the key point here is this:
Google’s own support team admitted that they never had a system in place for such refunds.
To summarise, it is alleged that Google seized almost half a million dollars from an independent platform that they said was fraud – but they never passed this back to the original publishers who spent the money. They are alleged to have kept it all for themselves.
What Does this Mean for Affected Google Ads Users?
Honestly, not a lot at this stage. Your account data will be sent, along with thousands of others, to the California Federal Court for the purposes of investigation relating to this lawsuit. Other than that, nothing will happen (at this stage). It does not mean you are under investigation yourself, and it does not mean that you will be entitled to a payday should AdTrader win the lawsuit.
How Do I Know If My Account Data Has Been Handed Over to the Courts?
It’s quite simple – if you’ve received the email below then your account data has been handed over to the courts in relation to this lawsuit:
For those of you unable to read the image, we’ve included a copy of the email below:
Google was ordered by a California federal court to produce information relating to your advertising account. This email serves as notice to you that Google will comply with that court order on December 5, 2018 by providing a name, company name, customer ID, address, and/or telephone number associated with your customer ID: [CUSTOMER-ID] as well as information relating to credits you received when certain AdX publishers’ accounts were terminated. Google cannot give you legal advice about this matter.
Please note that this notice has been sent to you by a no-reply email address. Replies sent to firstname.lastname@example.org will not be opened, read, or reviewed.
Background on the court Order:
The court order was entered in AdTrader, Inc., et al. v. Google LLC pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, Case no. 5:17-cv-07082-BLF. This lawsuit was filed against Google on behalf of a potential class of Google Marketing Platform (previously DoubleClick Bid Manager), Authorized Buyers (previously AdX), and Google Ads (previously AdWords) advertisers. The plaintiffs generally allege that Google failed to provide advertisers credits when it discovered invalid publisher activity.
What Data is Being Handed Over?
If your account has been affected, the courts will be provided with your:
- Company Name
- Customer ID
- Telephone Number
- Information relating to invalid click credits for certain AdX publishers accounts
This appears to the entire scope of the data collection – however, if this changes we will update this article to reflect this.
What Do I Need to Do If My Account Is Affected?
At this moment in time, nothing. It is unlikely that Google or AdTrader will call regular users as witnesses in the case. It is also unlikely that you will financially benefit from the class action, whichever way it goes. However, we do recommend keeping a close eye on the case – we will update this article with any future updates relating to the case.
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