Handing Facebook a significant victory, a federal judge has refused to grant class-action status to an advertiser suing the company over allegedly fake clicks.
The ruling, issued Tuesday by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup in the Northern District of California, does not in itself prevent the advertiser from proceeding on its own behalf -- but doing so is often prohibitively expensive for small companies.
Alsup's ruling stems from a lawsuit brought three years ago by dotStrategy, which operates the “.buzz” domain registry and paid Facebook around $8,000 for ad campaigns that ran between December of 2013 and May of 2018.
dotStrategy alleged it was charged by Facebook for clicks from 13 fake accounts during that time. Facebook ultimately deleted eight of those accounts, but failed to issue a refund, according to dotStrategy.
The company claimed Facebook violated a California business law regarding unlawful conduct by representing to advertisers that they wouldn't be charged for invalid clicks.
dotStrategy sought to represent any businesses that purchased Facebook ads after December 1, 2013 and paid for impressions delivered to fake accounts, or actions generated through fake accounts.
dotStrategy alleged in an amended complaint filed last year that it relied on several allegedly misleading statements by Facebook including one on its website that read: “On Facebook, you'll only pay to reach the right people who'll love your business.”
Another online statement flagged by dotStrategy promised: “Facebook is a community where everyone uses the name they go by in everyday life. This makes it so that you always know who you're connecting with.”
Last year, Alsup allowed that claim to proceed, but didn't rule at the time on whether dotStrategy's complaint should be certified as a class-action.
On Tuesday, the judge said the case didn't meet the standards for a class-action, because there was no evidence that other advertisers saw the allegedly misleading statements.
“Plaintiff has adduced no evidence of class-wide exposure to the alleged misrepresentations other than the mere existence of the misrepresentations on a few of Facebook's webpages, none of which an advertiser would have been required to view before, during, or after advertising on Facebook,” Alsup wrote.
dotStrategy has also filed a similar lawsuit against Twitter. That matter is pending in front of U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer in the Northern District of California.