Microsoft feels it was tricked out of $750,000 in online ad dollars by three Vancouver residents, so it’s suing their pants off and trying to set a new precedent for throwing legal heft around in the digital advertising world.
The complaint stems from car insurance companies,which like all advertisers pay per click on their ads on Microsoft search pages. The companies complained in 2008 that clicks on their ads were abnormally high. Either the ads were suddenly somehow incredibly compelling or something rotten was afoot, the companies figured. Microsoft tracked the pattern of clicks and noticed a parallel in World of Warcraft ads.
Microsoft is stepping up in order to preserve whatever integrity still remains in online search ads, Microsoft lawyers tell the NYT:
“We have decided to become more active in the commercial fraud area on the enforcement side,” said Tim Cranton, associate general counsel for Microsoft. “The theory is you can change the economics around crime or fraud by making it more expensive.”
Jeremy Fain, the vice president of industry services for the Interactive Advertising Bureau, a trade group, said that Microsoft’s lawsuit was more than a warning shot.
“Legally, if you commit wire fraud or mail fraud, there’s a lot of very stiff penalties for that, where we don’t have a lot of precedents, legally, from an Internet perspective yet,” he said. “It’s really meant to try to create more of a legal precedent, and more of a legal library of cases to draw from in the future.”
You hear that, ad fraudsters? The guy’s talking entire libraries of cases against y’all. So don’t make your day job clicking on search ads unless you feel like paying three quarters of a mill for the privilege.