AdSense Class-Action Lawsuit Offers Up No New Evidence From That Self-Proclaimed Ex-Googler

Google AdSense LogoA class-action lawsuit filed against Google this week claims the company has bilked publishers out of millions owed to them through its AdSense program. AdSense publishers that had their accounts shut off and final payments withheld due to perceived invalid activity have been threatening to bring this type of suit against Google for years, but this appears to be the first actually filed.

You may recall a few weeks ago a self-proclaimed ex-Googler claimed to have damning evidence that Google proactively keeps high-earning AdSense publishers from getting big payouts by abruptly shutting down their accounts just prior to the payment date and withholding all earnings for the period.

Google was quick to call the accusations “complete fiction”, and the sentiment among many in the industry is that the author is more likely a disgruntled publisher.

“I have communications. I have documents, I have files, I have lists, and I have names. I have all of it,” the person wrote, going on to say the files would be handed over to legal representatives of a potential class-action lawsuit.

However, it does not appear any this alleged evidence was provided to Hagens Berman, the law firm that filed the suit on behalf of Free Range Content, a California-based company that runs a content syndication site called, before the filing. The suit mentions the allegations, but the attorney’s don’t seem to have had any contact with the person:

“plaintiff cannot confirm the veracity of the allegations made by the individual … but in any event … Google nonetheless has behaved unlawfully in refusing to pay publishers, including the plaintiff, sums earned by them for serving AdSense ads in the period prior to Google’s disabling of those publishers’ accounts.”

Request for comment to the attorneys as to whether they’ve since had contact or received any of the files from the accuser has not been answered.

Free Range claims that at the end of February 2014 its AdSense estimated earnings report showed earnings totaling more than $40,000. Suspecting something wasn’t right since the account typically generated between $8,000 and $11,000 per month, Free Range says it contacted Google about the discrepancy.  A call between the two parties was allegedly scheduled for March 6. On March 4, Free Range says, it’s AdSense account was disabled with a reference to “invalid activity” happening in the account.

The crux of the claim is that publishers should be paid on the legitimate earnings for the period and that failing to do so is a breach of contract and violation of good faith and fair dealing. The suit says Google’s own estimate issued around the beginning of March 2014 put the total due to Free Range at over $11,000 for the period.

The suit goes on to say Google’s contractual terms are “unconscionable. Accordingly, they are unenforceable.”

“oppressive terms appear in contracts of adhesion that were foisted upon small businesses and individuals with no bargaining power by a giant and powerful corporation, Google, that drafted them and presented them as a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. There was no negotiation, and there was an absence of meaningful choice. Furthermore, these terms are so one-sided as to shock the conscience”

Whether a judge will see AdSense contracts in the same light remains to be seen, but even if that happened, it seems unlikely Google would ever let this kind of suit get to trial. We’ll have to see if any of the evidence that self-proclaimed ex-Googler claims to have ever materializes.

Related Topics: Channel: Industry | Display Advertising | Google | Google: AdSense | Google: Business Issues


About The Author: writes about paid online marketing topics including paid search, paid social, display and retargeting. Beyond Search Engine Land, Ginny provides search marketing and demand generation advice for ecommerce companies. She can be found on Twitter as @ginnymarvin.

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  • waqar

    That was harsh man :) Google will confront it easily

  • Trails of Doom

    Adsense is even more damaging to youtube content publishers. I run TrailsOfDoom a paintball youtube channel. I advertised for adsense for 3 years from 2009 through 2012. I invented a new way to film paintball and my channel blew up in February of 2012. I was invited into the “pre-roll” advertising back then and one of my videos was featured on a paintball companies facebook page, which went out to the 100,000 people who “liked” their page. So my video got thousands of views in under an hour. Since they were from all over the world, and the fact that my viewship on youtube was blowing up, I would assume it flagged my account, and in one month I finally hit the $100 threshold to get my first check. But, instead of a check, I got the “your adsense account has been flagged for possible invalid click activity”. I appealed and got the computer generated response a week later (at 4:30 in the morning EST). My channel has continued to grow (ad free now) and is getting ready to hit 10,000 subscribers, and I average 100,000 views a month now. With my average viewer watching around 5:00 of each video! Which is amazing retention for youtube.

    All for nothing, as I have never made a single dime from the hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars spent on camera gear, and editing…

    And it is a LIFETIME ban, and there is NOTHING you can do about it. As they lock your adsense account, and you can’t get rid of it. So I am in fact a youtube partner, with no ability to monetize my content… I have all the other “features” though on my youtube account.

    So when I think of Google now… I think of the evil they have done to me… As a youtuber with a big following in paintball, I never recommend others to get into the game, as Google always wins. And the little guy like me get screwed.

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