Google Must Face Claims It Overcharged Pay-Per-Click Advertisers, Judge Rules

Google must face a trial in a long-running battle with a pay-per-click advertiser who claimed in a class-action complaint that the company reneged on a promise to discount some ads, and failed to limit ads geographically.

In a ruling issued Tuesday, U.S. District Court Judge Edward Davila in the Northern District of California rejected Google's bid to decide the lawsuit in its favor before trial, writing that case involved a “genuine dispute of material fact” that warrants a trial.

The battle dates to 2011, when Rene Cabrera claimed he was overcharged for pay-per-click ads he purchased to market his former business, Training Options.

He alleged that he bought pay-per-click ads from Google between 2008 and 2009, and that Google failed to correctly apply its “smart pricing” discount during that time, and also charged him for clicks that originated from states other than the ones he was targeting. He targeted Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and Louisiana, but alleged that he was charged for clicks from users in New York, Virginia, California, Illinois, Texas, and other states, according to court papers.

Davila previously threw out the lawsuit on the grounds that Cabrera no longer owned Training Options, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals revived his claims in 2021. The appellate court said that Cabrera's continued control over his Google advertising account gave him “standing” to pursue a lawsuit against the company.

After the 9th Circuit sent the case back to Davila, Google urged the judge to decide the matter without a trial.

Among other arguments, Google said its agreement with advertisers doesn't set out a particular “smart pricing” formula. The company also argued that it disclosed in the “Help Center” that ads could be shown to users regardless of their location.

Davila rejected Google's bid for summary judgment on both points, paving the way for Cabrera to attempt to prove his claims at a trial.

Separately, advertisers who purchased Google's “TrueView” skippable video ads recently alleged in a class-action complaint that they were overcharged by the company.

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