Client wants to sue Google for AdWords fraud

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Jul 18, 2012
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Technically he's not a client. But I have a dentist who's gone ballistic and wants to take Google to small claims court in California because he was charged $4000 last month for AdWords clicks. He and his staff searched a number of times for keywords and his site never showed up in AdWords.

He's admitted that he has very little understanding about SEO/SEM and Google. I've told him that either the company he hired wasn't Google, but maybe an offshore agency. If that's the case, then he's SOL.

I said if it's Google, he agreed to the TOS for AdWords and he's not gonna win. I told him to chalk this up as an expensive lesson- which he refuses to learn.

Now he wants me to provide my analysis confirming that he was defrauded by Google for click fraud. I told him that he's going to spend more money and will lose. I don't feel comfortable taking this guy's money for my time.

Our most recent call even started to sound like something from Punked or Crank Yankers. I was waiting for a punchline.

Has anyone ever had a client try to sue Google????

 

Scott Rawlins

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Wow Chris! That's a new one for me. I have never had that happen to any of my clients, but would definitely be interested in how it turns out. Good luck.
 
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The client just gave me their login credentials.

Good lord... the Google rep set the ads location to the entire USA... for a dentist! :eek:

$100 a day budget. Broad match searches like "orthodontist", "cosmetic dentist"...

That's BS that a Google rep would setup a campaign for a local business like this.
 

Scott Rawlins

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Wow, that is astonishing. If this was set by Google, then maybe he does have "a leg to stand on". Keep us posted.
 

Phil Rozek

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Wow, that is astonishing. If this was set by Google, then maybe he does have "a leg to stand on". Keep us posted.
That makes me wonder two things:

1. Whether it was a Google rep, or a third-party AdWords reseller. The dentist may not know the difference.

2. Maybe the dentist didn't know about geographical targeting, and didn't specify where he wanted his ads to show up (and not to show up).
 
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Jul 18, 2012
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Thanks Phil for your input!

I thought the same thing. I told him last week that he was up S creek either way. If it's a 3rd party, they may be shady.

But I logged into the doctor's AdWords account and looked at the Account/Change History and the user has a @google.com account.

I can't believe that a Google rep would think it's OK to target the entire country for a dentist. Either she accidentally/mistakenly made the error; or she maliciously opened it up to the entire USA so the doctor would get a lot of clicks.
 

Phil Rozek

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Thanks Phil for your input!

But I logged into the doctor's AdWords account and looked at the Account/Change History and the user has a @google.com account.

I can't believe that a Google rep would think it's OK to target the entire country for a dentist. Either she accidentally/mistakenly made the error; or she maliciously opened it up to the entire USA so the doctor would get a lot of clicks.
Good God. That sucks. I do believe your guy has a leg to stand on. Especially if he was bidding on non-geo-specific keywords like "dentist"; even if they're exact-match, $4K would last him about 15 minutes if his ads are showing coast to coast.
 

Linda Buquet

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I'm 90% certain I've seen 3rd party Adwords reps that were like trusted partners or outsourced or something that did not work for Google but had Google email addresses.

There was some kind of scandal about it a couple years ago but I don't remember the details.

That isn't to say it wasn't a Googler. Could have been a newbie or incompetent. I would hate to think it was intentional BUT if it was a 3rd party they would have financial incentive to be incompetent and set national. But they also have to be pretty stupid to think that once that much of a click bill built up, there would not be complaints.
 

Linda Buquet

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I'm 90% certain I've seen 3rd party Adwords reps that were like trusted partners or outsourced or something that did not work for Google but had Google email addresses.

There was some kind of scandal about it a couple years ago but I don't remember the details.
Found it, or one of them, I think there was another too. <a href="http://3qdigital.com/google/third-party-google-reps-a-cautionary-tale/">Third-Party Google Reps: A Cautionary Tale</a>


Found this too which might help if you need it: Complaint about a Third Party (an Agency, a Google Partner or any other Third Party that sells Adwords) Violation - AdWords Help
 

painperdu

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Dec 23, 2013
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Sounds fishy.

If it was a Google rep they would more than likely take responsibility for the location oversight and refund money. I doubt this because no one knows more about the importance of optimizing things like location targeting than AdWords reps.

Has your client tried contacting AdWords for an explanation? What did they tell him?
 
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This "third party" thing is going to cause a mess! Thanks for sharing. Have several clients tapping into PPC right now and using other companies.
 

divotagency

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Mar 24, 2014
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I actually had a dental client set up their own AdWords campaign and targeted the entire USA AND Canada with broad match terms like dentist and dental... The dentist did this for about 4 years until I inherited the account and had to be the bearer of bad news. Nothing wrong with taking on the client - but only if he understands very clearly what the likely outcome will be...

I wonder if it really was a Google rep or 3rd party company that set up his campaign (and not the dental practice)??? Only because that is such a basic thing for local search that even the most inexperienced consultant would pick up.
 
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Thanks guys!

I logged into the client's Gmail account and found the emails from the Google rep when the AdWords account was initially setup.

It's definitely a Google employee.

 

divotagency

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WOW!!!! I think this dentist may have a case. At the VERY least he should have the equivalent of free advertising...

I know I've spoken with Google reps that give very harmful "advice"... But notice the disclaimer at the bottom of the email??

Good luck with this one - I wouldn't call it fraud, but negligence for sure.
 

Linda Buquet

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I agree with negligence for sure.

If I were him I would try for a big fat refund with a nice credit added for good faith.

I think there is def a case for this.

But I would not waste money on litigation. It would be a long, drawn out, frustrating, expensive battle that I doubt he'd win.
 

Blake Denman

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Nov 6, 2013
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Here's a link to the AdWords Terms of Service: https://adwords.google.com/billing/ui/static/terms_and_conditions/TCUSA2013-02-en.html?hl=en_US

Their Indemnification clause is pretty solid:
"Customer will defend, indemnify and hold harmless Google, its Partners, agents, affiliates, and licensors from any third party claim or liability arising out of or related to Targets, Creative, Destinations, Services, Use and breach of these Terms by Customer. Partners are intended third party beneficiaries of this Section."

I would try and work out some type of credit, if your client can. Even if the rep that set up the campaigns was a Partner, affiliate, or licensor, they are covered. Have him stress that the targeting was out of this world bad.

If you would like, I can call my AdWords rep and see if their is anything else that your client can/could do to get this debacle sorted out.
 

Phil Rozek

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Great advice from Blake.

Also, never underestimate the power of persistent nagging - especially to ask to speak with the rep's supervisor. If Mr. Dentist can get through to someone with a little latitude, that would help.
 

divotagency

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Mar 24, 2014
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Indemnification clause's are pretty common among all businesses - but it doesn't release them of gross negligence - especially when you have an army of search marketers that would all agree this was a bad move by Google. I'd like to hear how Google justifies this move...
 
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Thanks guys!!!!

I'm going to call Google today on behalf of my client and see what we can get done.

The doctor is so outraged that his emotions are clouding his judgement. He's taking this personally and wants to take Google to small claims court out of principle.

I've told him I won't help him in any way if he goes down that path. But I will try to see if Google will do something to fix this issue.

I'll let you know how things go.
 

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