MyTriggers And Google Fighting Out Quality Score Ranking In Court

Comparison shopping site myTriggers, currently suing Google for allegedly raising myTriggers' quality score for anticompetitive reasons, says in new court papers that it had an equipment problem shortly before Google took action.

MyTriggers says in an amended complaint filed in Columbus, Ohio that its data centers overheated in January of 2008, resulting in equipment damage. The company adds that the incident resulted in staff layoffs and also spurred it to relocate its data centers.

Those facts could prove helpful to Google if the search giant intends to argue that the reason it lowered myTriggers' quality score was because of server-related problems, like slow load times, and not for improper anticompetitive reasons.

MyTriggers' lawyer, Joe Bial, downplays the significance of the January overheating incidents, saying that myTriggers' quality score was lowered in March of 2008 -- around two months after the overheating incident -- and remained low for more than one year after that. "I don't think servers going down is an uncommon event at any technology company, including Google," he says.

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Bial adds that Google didn't divulge its reasons for lowering the quality score. MyTriggers says in court papers that its sites always "continued to work."

The legal dispute between the two companies dates back to last year, when Google filed a collection against myTriggers for allegedly failing to pay $335,000 in search marketing fees. myTriggers responded with a counterclaim alleging that Google violated antitrust law by raising myTriggers' quality score, which caused the cost of its pay-per-click ads to increase by as much as 10,000 percent.

myTriggers argues that the cost hike was anticompetitive on the theory that it posed a challenge to Google by monetizing many searches on a cost-per-action basis. myTriggers says that system "threatened to undermine Google's revenue model and, ultimately, its dominance in paid search results."

Google recently asked that the case be dismissed, arguing that the federal Communications Decency Act's "good samaritan" provisions shield it from liability for any steps taken to remove potentially objectionable content. Google argues that its actions as a publisher -- including lowering companies' quality scores -- are the type of activity that is protected by the statute.

Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray recently weighed in against Google. He argues that accepting Google's argument "would immunize an entire industry from the reach of this state's antitrust laws."

Judge John Bessey in Columbus is expected to hold a hearing about the issue on June 7.

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