In the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in federal district court in San Jose, Calif., David Almeida alleges that Google did not adequately inform him that his paid search ads would run on the AdSense network as well as the search results pages. Almeida alleges that he thought he had opted-out of AdSense during the registration process, when he didn't respond to a question asking how much he would be willing to pay per click for contextual ads on sites that participate in Google's publisher network.
"Plaintiff, like any reasonable consumer, expected that leaving an input blank would indicate that he did not want to bid on content ads," alleged Almeida, a Massachusetts private investigator who began using Google's paid search program in November 2006.
He said that Google instead charged him for pay-per-click ads on AdSense pages--which, he alleged, "are demonstrably inferior to ads appearing on search result pages."
"Google has benefited from the receipt of such money that it would not have received but for its concealment," he charged. Almeida, who is alleging unjust enrichment, fraudulent concealment and violations of California's business code, has asked the court to certify the case as a class-action.
Google offers marketers the opportunity to op- out of AdSense, but Almeida's lawyer, Brian Kabateck, said Almeida didn't know how to do so. "It's very, very difficult for a novice advertiser to understand," Kabateck said.
But not everyone agrees that Google's opt-out procedure is too confusing. "It's quite possible that some new advertiser would not understand all the aspects of the system, but I don't think there's any fraud here," said search expert Greg Sterling. "It's pretty easily discoverable that you can opt-out."
Google said it hadn't yet been served with a complaint, and declined to comment on the case.
Kabateck has previously sued Google and Yahoo for click fraud. His law firm, Kabateck Brown Kellner, settled with Yahoo and joined in a $90 million settlement with Google.