Google Wants Supreme Court To Nix Class-Action Over 'Parked Domains'

Google has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review an appellate court's decision granting class-action status to pay-per-click marketers who are suing the company for allegedly placing their ads on "low quality" sites.

In a petition filed last week, Google argues that the marketers should not be able to proceed as a class because their damages would need to be calculated on a company-by-company basis.

The battle centers on Google's "parked domains" and "errors" programs, which often serve ads on sites that aren't fully developed, and on typo sites that people visit accidentally. Several pay-per-click marketers -- including law firm Pulaski & Middleman and retailer RK West -- alleged in a 2009 lawsuit that ads on Google's AdSense for Domains and AdSense for Errors programs result in fewer purchases than ads on Google's search results pages. The marketers, who are seeking restitution, also claimed that ads on parked domains could damage their reputations.

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A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit recently ruled that the marketers could proceed as a class because they had presented valid proposals for determining restitution on a class-wide basis. The appellate judges appeared to endorse at least one methodology -- the "Smart Pricing" approach, which the opinion describes as "the difference between the amount the advertiser actually paid and the amount paid reduced by the Smart Pricing discount ratio."

But Google argues that restitution can't be calculated based on a "general one-size-fits-all formula."

Google adds that many advertisers -- including RK West -- "achieve higher conversion rates on parked domains and error pages than on the Smart Pricing benchmarks."

Additionally, the company contends that the 9th Circuit's ruling would result lead to a situation where "hundreds of thousands of different advertisers who purchased millions of different ads from Google over the course of several different years."

Those marketers "will demand restitution from Google for alleged violations of California’s unfair competition laws -- never mind that some putative class members benefited from the alleged misconduct," Google writes.

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