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Google Smart Pricing Not Adding Up

An Arkansas attorney sued Google for allegedly misrepresenting its AdWords advertising program.  On September 28, 2017, federal district judge Edward Davila of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California issued a ruling granting in part and denying in part Google’s motion for summary judgment.

In his breach of contract claim, the attorney, Rick Woods, contended that Google failed to provide a Smart Pricing discount to three ad clicks that he paid for. Google countered that all three of those clicks came from mobile ads - that is, ads displayed on smartphones and tablets. According to Google, mobile ads were specifically excluded from Smart Pricing when Mr. Woods signed up for AdWords.

In addition to his breach of contract claim, Mr. Woods alleged that Google breached the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and violated California’s unfair competition law (UCL) and that state’s false advertising law (FAL).

Judge Davila denied Google’s summary judgment motion on Mr. Woods’ breach of contract claim, concluding that a factual dispute existed regarding the meaning of “mobile ads” and whether the three clicks at issue were excluded from Smart Pricing.

Judge Davila also denied Google’s motion for summary judgment on Mr. Woods’ UCL claim based on his allegation that Google represented that it would display his ad to users in a specific geographical area, when in fact it showed ads to users in other areas. The court found that a triable issue of fact existed as to whether Mr. Woods relied on Google’s statement that ads would appear in specific geographical areas.

Judge Davila, however, granted Google’s motion for summary judgment as to Mr. Woods’ UCL and FAL claims regarding Smart Pricing. The court found that Mr. Woods failed to establish that he relied on Google’s misrepresentations.

Judge Davila also found that Mr. Woods’ claim for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing arose from the same facts and sought the same damages as his breach-of-contract claim. As such, the implied covenant claim was superfluous and summary judgment on that claim was proper.

Lexis subscribers can access the opinion at: Woods v. Google, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160241 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 2017)

Lexis Advance subscribers can find the opinion at:  Woods v. Google, Inc., 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 160241 (N.D. Cal. Sept. 28, 2017)

Author:  Hans Thielman Lexis-Nexis Case Law Editor


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