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Citysearch.com Accused of Encouraging Click Fraud



The local search property, Citysearch.com, is coming under fire for its lack of a click fraud system.

According to a lawsuit filed yesterday in Los Angeles Superior Court, Citysearch.com is defrauding its advertising customers by not only turning a blind eye to click fraud, but the lawsuit states they are actually encouraging it.

“Most click fraud cases involve companies that simply turn a blind eye to it,” said the victims’ attorney, Brian S. Kabateck, Managing Partner of Kabateck Brown Kellner. “Citysearch does this too, since it has no real program to prevent click fraud. But Citysearch goes beyond indifference to actively incentivizing click fraud. Citysearch’s motive is simple: clicks equal cash, whether they’re fraudulent or not.”

You may remember Kabateck from other paid search cases, including winning a multi-million dollar settlement from Yahoo! and playing a part in a $90 million settlement from Google on behalf of advertisers who were victimized by click fraud.

Kabateck has also recently filed a federal class action suit against Google for fraud within its “AdWords” system.

Citysearch, which is part of IAC/InterActiveCorp, and also controls Ask.com, pays commissions to its salespeople based on the number of clicks their customers’ ads receive. According to the lawsuit, this incentives click fraud practices.

Furthermore, the suit contends, contrary to Citysearch’s own representations to its advertisers, it takes no real steps to prevent click fraud. And when customers become victims of click fraud, Citysearch fails to adequately advise them that they have been victimized or refund the money paid to Citysearch for that fraudulent activity.

The lawsuit seeks to represent all people or entities in the United States who paid money for pay-per-click advertising through Citysearch.com.

The lawsuit is heavily based on plaintiff Tom Lambotte’s experience with Citysearch.com, which he and his representation feel is a direct indication of click fraud. Lambotte’s Citysearch ad received a total of 7 clicks (plus two more that he generated) between December 11 and 25, 2007. On December 26 he received a response from Citysearch to his December 22 request to cancel his ad. Suddenly, his ad began receiving 12 to 16 clicks a day, for a total of 69 clicks between December 26 and December 31, when his ad was finally canceled. He received in these five days 10 times as many clicks as he had received in the previous two weeks. Despite this, Citysearch refused his repeated requests to reverse these charges.

Citysearch’s Invalid Click Policy states:

“Citysearch also has sophisticated algorithms to track sessions and user behavior on our site to assist us in identifying click patterns that would indicate invalid clicks. In the event we identify a click as invalid, our customers are not charged for such clicks.”

As with most of these cases it seems that the burden of proof will be on the plaintiff to prove that the clicks in question were “invalid.” From the information in the lawsuit, it is obvious that Lambotte tried to cancel his account with the search vertical, but to automatically assume that the increase in clicks was caused by fraud and not optimization may be difficult to prove.

  • http://www.frankthinking.com Frank Reed

    Wow. I guess $30 million to the firm wasn’t enough back in 2006. I betcha that law firm has some nice perks! Gotta feed the machine!

    Frank Reed’s last blog post..Blog? What Blog?

  • http://www.favbrowser.com Web Browser

    What about other companies? More than 50% of “top ones” got as much fraud click as anyone else.

    Web Browser’s last blog post..Firefox 3 vs. Internet Explorer 7 (IE7) vs. Safari 3.1

  • http://www.totallycellphones.com Kevin Luxon

    I’m looking for an attorney to help me with Ask.com and click fraud. With every other program ADWORDS, OVERTURE/YAHOO, MSN, my cost per acquisitions has never gone above $8 average. At ask.com, it has been over $130 to $250 CPA. Please call for details, Kevin at 888-722-1688

  • http://www.beijingdiscoverytours.com Jeff Cheap

    I have also been defrauded by Citysearch and will probably file a lawsuit. Once I signed up on October 7, 2007 and supposedly put my ad up on Citysearch, I looked for it for several days afterwards but could never find it. It was only supposedly listed in the Oklahoma City area Citysearch (my company is registered in Oklahoma) so how hard could it be to find it, especially since I knew what I was looking for? I never could find it, so I just assumed that they had decided not to post my ad for whatever reason and then forgot about it, until I received an email from Citysearch on November 3, stating that I was about to be invoiced. I couldn’t imagine that I had used up the $25 credit already, so I logged in to my Citysearch account. It showed that my ad supposedly ran from 10/7 to 11/1, with zero clicks everyday except for 4 days: Monday 10/22 showed 51 clicks, Tuesday 10/23 showed 25 clicks, Wednesday 10/24 showed 25 clicks, and Thursday 10/25 showed 21 clicks. I had Google Analytics installed and I didn’t even have nearly that many visits to my website for the two months it had been up!
    I complained to Citysearch and only got a rude reply from someone named “Bruce Jones, Senior Account Exec (sic)” full of misspellings and only telling me to call him to discuss the cost per click.
    Now it is almost a year later, and I keep disputing the charges and Citysearch keeps re-charging my credit card. Someone needs to stop Citysearch with their dishonest and corrupt business practices – too many small business are being hurt or destroyed by Citysearch fraud!

  • Rick Arnst

    Mr. Cheap is dead on the money. I too have been victimized by Citysearch. They have billed my credit card over $500 per month for five months. The rep who signed us up said the billing to our account would be 12.95 and he doubted that the billing would go over $20 in any given month. I am trying to work thru my credit card company and may get some relief there but it will only be partially. I have done alot of reading from others who have suffered the bad Citysearch experience. I would be remiss if I did not say BEWARE (ESPECIALLY SMALL COMPANIES) IT IS VERY DOUBTFUL THIS COMPANY WILL EVER BE A POSITIVE ADVERTISER FOR YOUR COMPANY GIVEN THEIR CURRENT PRACTICES.

  • http://www.sanantoniowinebar.com Drink Texas

    Citysearch offered us #1 placement for our business but failed to change our listing at all. $200 a month for zero clicks, and both their sales rep and customer service refuse to return my emails or calls. I’ve changed my credit card number so I can no longer be charged by these scam artists. I also had our case featured on the Bad Company blog – http://badcompany.wordpress.com. It’s really frustrating dealing with these guys so I suspect I’ll never get my money back.