SAN FRANCISCO — Attorneys recently said that Google is likely to pay $22.5 million in restitution to advertisers who allegedly didn’t get their money’s worth when the internet giant placed their advertisements on “error pages” and “inactive” websites.
Noah Schubert, partner with the San Francisco-based law firm Schubert Jonckheer & Kolbe LLP, told the Northern California Record that the advertisements had been placed on what amounted to junk web pages.
“This litigation has been going on now for nine years,” he said. “Advertisers were misled where their advertisements would be placed, and the ads were placed on websites that had very little value.”
Google has denied the allegations.
Parked domains are websites with little or no content. An error page is a website a visitor enters when they use an unregistered address on their browser. The advertisers had signed up for what was called a “Google AdWords” program.
Schubert said a preliminary settlement has been reached where anyone who did not receive proper placement of their ad by Google can file a claim to get their money back and have 60 days to do so. A website, adwordsclassaction.com, is recording the complaints.
Approximately 1 million plaintiffs could become involved in the case for advertising run by Google from 2004 to 2008.
In September 2015, a victory was achieved by the plaintiffs when the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed an earlier ruling from a federal judge. That ruling held that the case was not a proper civil case because the plaintiffs would qualify for differing amounts of damages. Figuring out who was owed what would be too confusing.
“They said it was too much to figure out how much was owed each advertiser,” Schubert said. “But we had a formula that was reasonable. Google and their attorneys disagreed, but we won. After that, they filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of the United States... in early 2016.”
The SCOTUS decided not to hear Google’s appeal to halt the case and upheld the Ninth Circuit Court's decision.
The case now goes to Judge Edward J. Davila, who will decide if the approved settlement and calculation of damages is fair in a hearing in San Jose scheduled for July 27. Davila had earlier granted preliminary approval of the proposed settlement on March 9.
Damages will be calculated on Google’s own pricing structure for ad rates called “Smart Pricing,” and the amount owed each advertiser will depend on how much advertising they ran and the cost, which Schubert said can range anywhere from a minimal amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
“We think it’s a good settlement and we’re happy with the result,” Schubert said. “We feel it offers an excellent solution.”
A spokesperson for Google declined to comment on the case.