Google Agrees to Pay $11 Million to Suspended AdSense Publisher
Google has agreed to pay the sum of 11 million dollars as part of a class action settlement for terminating or disabling a publisher’s Adsense accounts, but not paying out any balances that the publisher had at the time.
The class action complaint filed by a California company named Free Range Content, Inc. alleged that Google would shut down an Adsense account shortly before a payment was to be made and then deny the publisher the balance owed on the account.
The AdSense program is enormously popular. This popularity translates annually to billions of dollars payable to AdSense publishers – Google’s parlance for website operators that host its ads. But as the plaintiff and many other publishers have found, Google often shuts down AdSense accounts shortly before a periodic payment is due and then denies the publisher the entirety of the expected payment, notwithstanding all the ads the publisher already has served to visitors to its website during the payment period.
This practice has sparked numerous bitter complaints detailed at various places on the web. For example, one self-described AdSense publisher stated the following: “It’s common knowledge among SEOs that AdSense tends to be disabled a few days before the supposed payout. I haven’t lost any big sum – only $2000 but I know one person that lost $40,000. It was all legitimate traffic coming straight from Google themselves, no click fraud no bought traffic etc. PS: I was using AdSense from 2008 to 2013 – over 5 years so it’s not like only new users got banned.”1
While the Plaintiffs ultimately feel they would have won the case, they also acknowledged in the settlement agreement that they “recognize that Google raised defenses as to both liability and damages, which created a material risk that Plaintiffs would not have prevailed.”
Google on the other hand has “has at all times denied—and continues to deny—any and all alleged wrongdoing. Specifically, Google denies that its conduct concerning Google AdSense violates any law, and it is prepared to continue its vigorous defense, including at summary judgment and trial. Even so, taking into account the uncertainty and risks inherent in summary judgment and trial, Google has concluded that continuing to defend this Action would be burdensome and expensive.”
With both the plaintiff and Google recognizing that this case could have gone either way, they both felt it was in the best interests to settle rather than continue what would be an expensive case.
As part of the settlement agreement an 11 million dollar fund will be created, with no more than $5,000 being paid to Class Representatives, no more than $2,750,000 being paid to the class action lawyers, and $116,045 reimbursed to the lawyers for costs and expenses. The rest of the money will be used to pay Settlement Class Members whose accounts were terminated or disabled by Adsense and were not paid the current balance of their accounts.
The amount of money that a claimant will be paid depends on the payment group they would fall under, which is based on whether a notice of dispute was sent in a timely manner, when they were terminated, and what Adsense agreement their account was bound by. For “Payment Group 1”, the publisher would receive 100% of the balance, “Payment Group 2” would receive 50%, and “Payment Group 3” would receive 30%.
The minimum amount that can be claimed is $3.00 and any remaining distributions will be distributed as a “cy pres” award, which is proposed to go to Public Justice Foundation and Public Counsel.