The publisher of the online entertainment site SuperCrayCray.com has sued Google for allegedly failing to pay more than half a million dollars in ad revenue.
Super Cray alleges that Google said it withheld the money due to the belief that SuperCrayCray.com's layout encouraged accidental clicks. “Super Cray has repeatedly tried to discuss the issue with Google AdSense representatives,” the company says in its complaint, filed in the Northern District of California. “Google, however, has refused to carry on any in-depth substantive discussions with Super Cray and has refused to pay anything.”
The publisher alleges in the complaint that it began displaying AdSense ads last September. Soon after joining the AdSense program, Super Cray allegedly spent $300,000 advertising and distributing its own content.
By late October, enough people had clicked on the AdSense ads displayed on Super Cray's site that it accrued $535,000 in revenue, the complaint alleges.
“Instead of receiving a payout from Google, however, on October 21, 2014, Super Cray received a notification from Google that its account had been suspended for 'Layout Encourages Accidental Clicks,'” Super Cray says in a complaint alleging fraud and breach of contract, among other counts.
Super Cray, which compares its design to those of BuzzFeed and Cracked, says it didn't encourage accidental clicks. “SuperCrayCray did not display ads in such a way that they might have been mistaken for other Web site content,” the company says. “SuperCrayCray did not use language to encourage users to click on ads.”
Google subsequently reinstated Super Cray's AdSense account, but never paid the $535,000 in ad revenue accrued between September and October, according to its lawyer, Mark Poe of San Francisco.
Poe also says that Google never elaborated on its assertions that Super Cray's layout encourages accidental clicks. “They assert these grounds for confiscating the earnings, but when one presses for any explanation of the grounds, they refuse to support it with any facts,” he says. “They will have to explain at some point their grounds for confiscating this earned revenue.”
Super Cray isn't the only AdSense participant to sue Google for allegedly withholding ad revenue. Web site owner Peter Ogtanyan alleged in a complaint filed last year in California's Santa Clara County that he's owed $1 million in AdSense fees.
Google also faces a potential class-action lawsuit by AdSense publishers who allege that they were wrongly deprived of ad revenue. That case is pending before U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in the Northern District of California.