Google is being peppered by yet another lawsuit regarding its advertising technology, according to a suit filed in San Jose district court by consumer crusading legal eagles Kabateck Brown Kellner.
An advertiser alleges that Google is taking money from him because he is leaving blank an optional box that allows Google to charge customers for ads placed through AdSense, Google's third-party ad network.
Here is the background. When agreeing to use Google's advertising program, advertisers see two boxes. One is Google's primary ad moneymaker AdWords, which lets users enter the amount advertisers want to pay per click of their ad on Google.com.
The second box is optional, but it lets users enter how much they would pay for AdWords ads appearing on third-party Web sites.
The rub, according to Brian Kabateck, who is lead counsel on the case and managing partner of the firm, is that leaving the box blank does not prevent ads from appearing on third-party sites. Unless users enter zero, their ads will appear on third-party sites and they will charged for them per click.
Kabateck is suing on behalf of David Almeida, who signed up for Google ads to promote his private investigation business. The plaintiff claims users are not being informed that Google places the ads through its AdSense affiliates and charges for them.
"People go to Google hoping that some of its magic will rub off on them. Instead, Google's sleight of hand deception is making their money disappear," Kabateck concluded with consummate litigious drama."
I've asked Google for comment, but so far, nada. I'm sure there is a clause somewhere in the AdSense literature online that tells users to enter zero, but I can't find it in terms of service or policies. Frankly, it would take me a couple hours I could spending actually working the show floor at Web 2.0 today.
On the other hand, would Kabateck, who was part of an earlier $90 million click-fraud settlement from Google, file the suit if he thought he didn't have a case? I doubt it.
Then again, according to what he told the Associated Press: "Most of the customers that actually fall victim to this scam are the unsophisticated advertisers. The sophisticated advertisers will know better, will know how to do it. These are the little guys that don't have money to lose on a program like this."
Does that mean that the "sophisticated" advertisers are performing due diligence by reading the fine print?
Kabateck may not win money for his client, but at the least he may get Google to tweak its policies and terms of services to be more explicit about what advertisers will and won't be charged for.