A karate school owner who advertises on Google wants a federal appellate court to revive a class-action complaint accusing the company of mishandling paid-search campaigns.
Mark Trudeau, an Oakland County, Michigan resident who co-owns Troy Martial Arts, alleged in a lawsuit filed earlier this year that Google displayed wrongly pay-per-click ads for his karate studio when users' search queries contained “negative” keywords -- meaning terms that were supposed to prevent ads from appearing.
Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Beth Labson Freeman in San Jose, California granted Google's motion to send the matter to arbitration. Freeman ruled that Google's 2017 contract with AdWords advertisers required arbitration of all disputes. On Wednesday, Trudeau appealed that ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
The legal battle dates to February, when Trudeau sued Google for allegedly breaching the AdWords agreement by overcharging him.
Trudeau alleged that he began advertising with Google in 2012, and agreed to pay between 50 cents and $5 per click. He also said he attempted to use “negative” keywords to block ads from being displayed when people's search queries suggested they lived far from Oakland County. For instance, he said, he wanted to block ads from being displayed to people who used the word “Southfield” in their queries, because he didn't believe people in Southfield would travel to Troy for martial arts training.
Despite his attempts to block those ads, Google sometimes served ads when the queries contained “negative” keywords like Southfield, he alleged. For example, he alleged, if search users misspelled “Southfield” as “Douthfield,” Google sometimes showed ads for his studio in Troy.
“Troy Martial Arts has determined that approximately one out of every two-hundred clicks occurs when Google improperly places Troy Martial Arts’ ad at the top of a search containing one of Troy Martial Arts’ negative keywords,” his complaint read.
Google argued the matter should either be dismissed outright or send to arbitration. The company said it amended its contract with advertisers in 2017 to require arbitration of disputes relating to AdWords. When Google revised its contract, the company gave advertisers up to 30 days to opt out of the new arbitration provisions.
Trudeau countered that a change in terms in 2017 shouldn't apply retroactively to search campaigns that occurred in the past. He also argued that Google “buried” the ability to opt out of the new arbitration provision.
Freeman rejected Trudeau's arguments, ruling that he agreed to Google's 2017 revised terms of service.
“The arbitration provision is valid and enforceable and covers the claims at issue here, such that Google’s motion to compel arbitration must be granted,” she wrote.