Why AdTrader is Suing Google and Why Most Advertisers Might Never Get that Chance Again

Feb 1, 2018 · 14 min read


In December 2017, AdTrader launched both an individual damages case and a class-action lawsuit against Google. Both cases are predicated on a seven-month long investigation during which it was discovered that Google has been illegally appropriating advertisers’ funds. In the meantime, an independent investigation was being conducted by the Wall Street Journal that lead to the same conclusion. As a result of the WSJ article, Google promptly changed millions of AdWords contracts to prevent advertisers from obtaining redress.

Our mission.

Bringing simplicity and transparency to an increasingly crowded and opaque ad ecosystem.

Source: Scott Brinker, http://chiefmartec.com/2017/05/marketing-techniology-landscape-supergraphic-2017/

Why are we writing this post?

We felt obligated to share publicly our discoveries of Google’s systematic misappropriation of funds.

Events leading up to the lawsuit.

By being positioned on both sides of the Google Ad Exchange, we could easily check if the money was returned to the advertisers.

  • AdX account showing insignificant amount of invalid traffic detected.
  • DoubleClick for Publishers account showing no AdX policy violations.
  • All publishers still running Google ads, confirming no violations.
  • Statements from Google executives insisting that every single cent of our publishers’ earnings has been refunded to the advertisers.
  • Data from Google’s APIs showing our advertisers’ bidding activity in some of our AdX publishers whose earnings were confiscated.
  • DoubleClick Bid Manager invoices showing that no refunds were issued to these advertisers.
  • Statements from DoubleClick Bid Manager’s support team explaining that there is no system for retroactive refunds.
  • Public statement from a Google spokesperson, admitting that Google only recently started to devise measures for refunding its DBM advertisers.
  • Other advertisers and agencies confirming that no refunds were received.
  • Wall Street Journal revealing that Google does not offer full refunds to advertisers [4].
  • AdWords Terms and Conditions changed six days after the WSJ article was published, prohibiting advertisers from seeking trial by jury or filing class action lawsuits.
  • Multiple articles in Google’s AdWords Help Centre [9] and Ad Traffic Quality Resource Centre [10], claiming that Google reimburses advertisers affected by invalid traffic.
  • Google Inc. Advertising Program Terms asserting Google’s obligation to issue credits to advertisers for invalid traffic.
  • Article in Google’s AdSense blog [11], admitting that Google’s policies sometimes result in good publishers having their accounts disabled without much recourse.
  • Article in Google’s AdWords blog [12], stating that Google has terminated more than 250,000 publisher accounts in 2013 alone.

At this point, it was clear that we had to take legal action.

Withholding publisher earnings and falsely claiming to return them to the advertisers is the very definition of theft.

The advertising refunds conundrum.

While Google is claiming to publishers that it cannot pay out their earnings as they have already been refunded to the advertisers, it is simultaneously claiming to advertisers that it is able to only refund a fraction of that amount (their platform fee) as the rest had been paid out to the publishers.


Google uses and abuses its monopolistic power on the buy and sell side to profit at the expense of everyone using their platforms.


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