Google has agreed to pay $11 million to settle a class-action by publishers who accused Google of wrongly withholding ad revenue.
The proposed settlement stems from a 2014 class-action complaint brought by small web site operators, including Free Range Content and Coconut Island Software, who said their accounts were wrongly disabled by Google over alleged policy violations. The publishers -- who said they had not engaged in click fraud or other activity prohibited by Google -- alleged that Google owed them revenue when they were thrown out of AdSense.
Google said in court papers filed last week that it agreed to settle the allegations because continuing with the litigation "would be burdensome and expensive." The company denies wrongdoing.
The deal calls for Google to reimburse some publishers between 30% and 100% of the money they were owed when their accounts were terminated. The settlement agreement comes almost two years after Google lost a key battle in the lawsuit. The company had argued that the case should be dismissed because its contract with publishers said the relationship could be terminated at any time. The publishers countered that those contracts were too unfair to be enforceable.
U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman sided with the publishers in May of 2016, ruling that they could proceed with their lawsuit. "Taking the allegations are true, the [agreements] are one-sided because they let Google withhold funds for up to two months regardless of the severity of the purported breach and even if the funds are earned through valid activity, notwithstanding Google’s supposed ability to distinguish between valid and invalid ad serves," she wrote.
Freeman will hold a hearing on the deal next month.
Good for those publishers! We were helping a small site a number of years back as well that lived off of those paychecks, and one day Google just turned them off without notice. We fought and fought, but not only would they not tell us why they were shut down, but they refused to pay what was owed due to "suspicious activity". Completely shuttered the small business for months before they generated a new revenue stream. Google makes it's own rules, and generally does right... But it's nice to see they are held accountable now when they're wrong.