Court Denies Class Certification in Click Fraud Case–Singh v. Google

15 years ago, there was a now-mostly-forgotten battle royale over click fraud in Google AdWords (see links at the post’s bottom). Fun times. Since the resolution of that litigation, click fraud issues have largely faded into the background, flaring up only occasionally. So it’s a nostalgic kick to blog a pure click fraud ruling in 2022.

Singh claims that Google AdWords (now Google Ads) doesn’t adequately screen out click fraud or invalid traffic. In particular, he says Google posted online that click fraud/invalid traffic is on the order of 10%. Singh claims his expert (Dr. Roberto Cavazos) showed that the number was more like 14%. Singh sued Google over 5 years ago. After extensive motion practice, the court now denies his motion for class certification.

Standing. “Singh has testified that he read alleged misrepresentations about invalid clicks on the AdWords blog and that he relied on those statements before signing up for AdWords. Singh’s position that he would not have paid as much for AdWords clicks if he had known that the average rate of click fraud was higher means that he ‘lost money’ for the purpose of UCL standing, if the statements were in fact misrepresentations.” For standing purposes, it doesn’t matter that he still advertises through AdWords.

Commonality. The court says the common question is “whether Google misrepresented the average level of click fraud on AdWords.”

Typicality. The court says Singh is atypical because (1) he opted-out of Google’s mandatory arbitration clause (“Singh cannot represent a class made up of advertisers who will largely be subject to a mandatory arbitration clause and class action waiver”), and (2) many advertisers never would have seen Google’s alleged misrepresentations, especially because they use ad agencies and never visit Google’s site at all. Also, many advertisers are pretty sophisticated and would interpret Google’s statements more skeptically than Singh did.

Adequacy. The court expresses concern that Singh seeks to represent advertisers who spend “orders of magnitude” more on AdWords than he does. For example, “Singh spent low four-figure dollar amounts per year on AdWords ads,” while Amazon spends $31.4M per month and Home Depot spends $6.81M per month.

Predominance. “The statements here are buried on two pages on Google’s website, neither of which need to be viewed by an advertiser to sign up for AdWords or place an ad. Singh has provided no evidence suggesting that advertisers would be exposed to those misrepresentations in any way other than by affirmatively accessing one of those two pages on Google’s websites. The alleged misrepresentations are thus not so ‘pervasively disseminated’ as to justify a presumption that putative class members were exposed to them.” Also, “Google does not conceal the actual efficacy of its filters. Each advertiser has access to the percentage of fraudulent clicks detected per campaign…Even if Singh is arguing that Google concealed the average efficacy of its click filters, that omission would not be
material to a reasonable advertiser where that advertiser has access to the actual efficacy of the click filters per campaign that the advertiser runs.”

Damages Model. “This damages model would make Google liable for any undetected fraudulent clicks that pass through its filters. This would make Google a guarantor that advertisers never pay for a fraudulent click—in other words, for any undetected click fraud.” But this overcomputes damages because Google never claimed that it would prevent all fraud; indeed, the AdWords Agreement explicitly says Google can’t.

Implications. The plaintiff can still proceed individually, but that can’t possibly be rational if Singh only spends a few thousand dollars a year on Google Ads and his maximum potential losses due to click fraud are going to be only hundreds or at most thousands of dollars. (Plus, a court would absolutely consider his continued advertising knowing his actual returns in any damages calculation). I’m not sure how Singh structured his relationship with his lawyers and experts, but he is surely out-of-pocket far more than any individual damages he can possibly get. If Singh can’t get this ruling reversed on appeal, then this case is dead and Singh spent a lot of unrecouped money over the past 5 years.

Case Citation: Singh v. Google LLC, 2022 WL 94985 (N.D. Cal. Jan. 10, 2022). The CourtListener page.

More Click Fraud Posts

* Google Successfully Amends Adwords Contract to Add Arbitration–AdTrader v. Google
* Catching Up On Some Recent Click Fraud Rulings
Facebook Beats Class Certification in Click Fraud Case
Google Sued for Click Fraud for the First Time in Years–123 Lock and Key v. Google
Facebook Gets Partial Win in Click Fraud Lawsuit
Citysearch Click Fraud Class Certified–Menagerie v. Citysearch
Facebook Sued for Click Fraud–RootZoo v. Facebook
Securities Fraud Case Premised on Click Fraud Allegations Dismissed–Brodsky v. Yahoo
Lambotte’s Click Fraud Lawsuit Against IAC Survives Motion to Dismiss
Stockholder Derivative Action Against Yahoo Based on Click Fraud Rebuffed–Brodsky v. Yahoo
Citysearch Sued for Click Fraud–Lambotte v. IAC
Click Fraud Talk at SMX West
Lead Fraud (A Cousin of Click Fraud)–NetQuote v. Byrd
Click Fraud Resources
Miva Securities Litigation Rejects Most Click Fraud/Syndication Fraud Claims
Click Fraud Lawsuit Survives Motion to Dismiss–Payday Advance v. FindWhat
Click Fraud Presentation
Google Click Fraud Settlement Approved
Yahoo Click Fraud Settlement Preliminary Approval
Google Click Fraud Report
AIT Click Fraud Lawsuit Stayed
Lane’s Gifts Click Fraud Lawsuit Near Settlement
Lane’s Gifts Click Fraud Lawsuit Back to State Court
Lane’s Gift Click Fraud Complaint
Click Fraud Lawsuit–Click Defense v. Google
Update on Click Fraud Lawsuit and Click Fraud