Google faces another click-fraud suit

Google could face another class-action suit over click fraud.

Google could have another class-action lawsuit on its hands over click fraud if a judge certifies a new suit filed against the company in Pennsylvania for class-action status.

Philadelphia attorney Samuel Lassoff has filed suited in a district court in Pennsylvania against Google for click fraud.

Lassoff, who is both the plaintiff and the lead attorney in the case, said he suffered about US$1,000 worth of click fraud involving two Web sites he has for a marketing and reseller business, SJL Systems. The Web sites involved in the case are www.winatshopping.com and www.coupons-and-promotions.com, and the click fraud occurred during the time period of October 2005 and February 2006.

Lassoff is seeking to have a judge certify his suit for class-action status for residents in Pennsylvania and New Jersey who also think they are paying Google more for online advertising due to click fraud. He practices law in both of those states.

Lassoff's complaint was served to Google on Monday. Other parties cannot join the suit until a judge certifies it, which Lassoff said he is confident the judge will do.

Click fraud occurs when someone clicks on a pay-per-click ad with a malicious intent. For example, a company official may click on competitors' ads to increase their ad spending, which is what Lassoff believed happened in his case. Another example of click fraud is a publisher clicking on his Web site's ads to increase his commissions.

Estimates about click-fraud incidence vary, but some place it is as high as 20 percent of all clicks.

Lassoff said he contacted Google about five times through e-mail and phone calls to report what he believed was click fraud, when he saw his advertising bills with the company spike while sales remained the same. He received no response from Google, "not even an e-mail," he said.

"It's like they're saying, 'You got a problem? What are you going to do about it?,'" Lassoff said. "I don't think they really care."

He said his case and others like it are ways customers of multibillion dollar corporations can police them and help prevent them from committing fraudulent activity.

"These companies, left unchecked, become Enron," Lassoff said. "I'm just going to be a part of that. I'm going to help keep that in check."

Google agreed to a US$90 million settlement in a class-action click-fraud lawsuit filed in Arkansas. Other companies such as Yahoo that sell online ads also have been embroiled in click-fraud suits.

A Google representative did not immediately return a request for comment on Friday.

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