Citysearch.com is defrauding its advertising customers of millions of dollars by not only turning a blind eye to click fraud, but in fact encouraging it as well, according to a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court by Kabateck Brown Kellner, LLP.
“Most click fraud cases involve companies that simply turn a blind eye to it,” said the victims’ attorney, Brian S. Kabateck, Managing Partner of Kabateck Brown Kellner. “Citysearch does this too, since it has no real program to prevent click fraud. But Citysearch goes beyond indifference to actively incentivizing click fraud. Citysearch’s motive is simple: clicks equal cash, whether they’re fraudulent or not.”
Kabateck recently won a multi-million dollar settlement from Yahoo! And was part of an earlier $90 million settlement from Google on behalf of advertisers who were victimized by click fraud. He also recently filed a federal class action suit against Google for fraud within its “AdWords” pay-per-click advertising system.
Citysearch, part of IAC/InterActiveCorp, which is headed by Barry Diller, pays commissions to its salespeople based on the number of clicks their customers’ ads receive, providing an incentive for click fraud, according to the lawsuit. Furthermore, the suit contends, contrary to Citysearch’s own representations to its advertisers, it takes no real steps to prevent click fraud. And when customers become victims of click fraud, Citysearch fails to adequately advise them that they have been victimized or refund the money paid to Citysearch for that fraudulent activity.
The lawsuit seeks to represent all people or entities in the United States who paid money for pay-per-click advertising through Citysearch.com. As detailed within the suit, the case of plaintiff Tom Lambotte shows Citysearch refusing to acknowledge blatant indications of click fraud.
Lambotte’s Citysearch ad received a total of 7 clicks (plus two more that he generated) between December 11 and 25, 2007. On December 26 he received a response from Citysearch to his December 22 request to cancel his ad. Suddenly, his ad began receiving 12 to 16 clicks a day, for a total of 69 clicks between December 26 and December 31, when his ad was finally cancelled. He received in these five days 10 times as many clicks as he had received in the previous two weeks. Despite this, Citysearch refused his repeated requests to reverse these charges.
Click fraud can be detected by software that can track suspicious patterns, such as repeated clicks from the same source. Although Citysearch assures its customers that it applies this technology, the experiences of many of its customers shows otherwise, according to the suit. Still, customers are led to believe that Citysearch is in fact actively fighting against click fraud.
According to Citysearch’s “Invalid Click Policy”: “Citysearch also has sophisticated algorithms to track sessions and user behavior on our site to assist us in identifying click patterns that would indicate invalid clicks. In the event we identify a click as invalid, our customers are not charged for such clicks.”
“Citysearch is operating contrary to its own contract with its customers,” Kabateck said.