AdWords Collections Attempt By Google Mutates Into Antitrust Lawsuit
from the didn't-expect-that,-did-you.. dept
However, a similar lawsuit has popped up, and it's a bit strange. Eric Goldman has all the murky details, of how a shopping search engine named myTriggers apparently got a line of credit from Google and used it to buy a bunch of AdWords search ads to drive traffic to its site (and then raised money based on the resulting traffic). Once again, Google rejiggered its algorithm, and suddenly the ads for myTriggers were a lot more expensive (by one to two orders of magnitude). The company couldn't pay its bill to Google, so Google hired a local lawyer (in Ohio) and went to court to try to get myTriggers to pay the $335,000 it owed. Simple enough.
Except that myTriggers returned fire by claiming antitrust violations by Google, and even went out and hired three separate lawfirms, including (conspiracy theory time) the same law firm that represented TradeComet and which is closely connected to Microsoft. As Goldman notes:
I am struggling to make sense of myTriggers' litigation choices. Assuming myTriggers even has the money, writing a $335k check to Google (and I bet Google would have taken less!) is almost assuredly cheaper than paying three law firms to mount an antitrust assault on a $20B/year behemoth. Assuming that myTriggers wants to maximize profits, then either (1) myTriggers thinks its odds are good enough that it will win AND make enough money to pay the 7 lawyers on the counterclaim's signature page plus their teams, or (2) the law firms struck an unbelievably sweet deal on fees.Goldman also notes that Google probably wishes it hadn't filed a claim in a local Ohio state court, as the antitrust battle might now need to be fought there, rather than in a friendlier federal court closer to home:
Whatever the case, I suspect the antitrust claims caught Google flat-footed. A simple and low-stakes collections matter has blown up into a potentially significant lawsuit in an undesirable forum. Google chose Ohio state court for the collections matter despite its AdWords contract, so now it will have a tough time extricating itself from that court. But I suspect it would rather have an antitrust case in federal court, not state court--often (but not always) federal judges are more sophisticated than state judges and less susceptible to hometown bias. And I'm sure Google would rather fight antitrust claims on one of the coasts than in the Rust Belt, especially if myTriggers argues that Google's evilness cost Ohioans jobs. Google probably didn't mean to offer battle in this venue, but someone did a really good job of seizing the opportunity and forcing Google to fight the battle in a suboptimal setting.As with the TradeComet case, the antitrust claim from myTriggers sounds incredibly weak, and it probably should be thrown out, but given the uncertainties of it being filed in the local court, Google may have to take it a bit more seriously. And, of course, the possibility of a secret Microsoft connection makes this even more interesting. Still, I can't see this getting that far in the long run. I hope that the judge recognizes the basic weaknesses of the case: here's a company that relied entirely on a single supplier who had every right to change its policies if it felt it didn't deliver a good customer experience, and it did so. myTriggers now seems to be suing as some sort of sour grapes for its own business failings.