Google Advertisers Win Appeal to Sue as Group Over AdWords

  • Advertisers win ruling over ads placed on error pages
  • AdWords program cases sent back to lower-court judge

Online advertisers won reversal of a ruling barring them from suing as a group over Google Inc.’s AdWords program.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Monday that a lower-court judge erred in rejecting advertisers’ request for class-action status. They sued over claims that Google charged them for ads that appeared from July 2004 to March 2008 on error pages and so-called parked domain pages of undeveloped websites.

AdWords is the platform for Google’s core search-based business that displays promotions along side query results and web content. While the company doesn’t break out specifics around the platform, it’s been a key driver in helping Google grow to more than $65 billion in annual sales.

Monday’s appeals court ruling returns the case to a trial judge for further consideration. The appellate panel also sided with the advertisers related to a method for determining damages in the case.

Aaron Stein, a spokesman for Google, declined to comment on the ruling.

U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila in San Jose, California, denied class certification in January 2012, partly because it would be difficult to determine which advertisers had been hurt by the placement of their ads. Davila also found that some clicks on ads on those pages could have resulted in sales for the advertisers, according to Monday’s decision.

The appeal case is Pulaski & Middleman LLC v. Google Inc. 12-16752, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit (San Francisco). The district court case is In re Google AdWords Litigation, 5:08-cv-03369, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Jose).

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