Internet search engine leader Google Inc on Wednesday said it had offered up to US$90 million to settle a lawsuit by advertisers who accuse it of overbilling them through "click fraud."
Google associate general counsel Nicole Wong, in a statement issued on Google's official Web site, stressed that "until the settlement is approved by the judge, it is not final."
She said that to settle the lawsuit filed in February in Arkansas, Google had agreed to reimburse advertisers "for clicks they believe are invalid," offering them "credits which can be used to purchase new advertising with Google."
"We do not know how many will apply and receive credits, but under the agreement, the total amount of credits, plus attorneys fees, will not exceed US$90 million," the Google lawyer added.
The agreement covers "all advertisers who claim to have been charged but not reimbursed for invalid clicks dating from 2002 when we launched our `cost per click' advertising program through the date the settlement is approved by the judge," Wong added.
The plaintiffs accuse Google of wrongly charging them for numerous invalid clicks on their advertising banners.
Wong said the plaintiffs could apply for reimbursement of "clicks that happen during the 60 days prior to notifying Google."
"Under the agreement with the plaintiffs, we are going to open up that window for all advertisers, regardless of when the questionable clicks occurred," Wong said.
"We have said for some time that we believe we manage the problem of invalid clicks very well," Wong said.
"By far, most invalid clicks are caught by our automatic filters and discarded `before' they reach an advertisers bill. And for the clicks that are not caught in advance, advertisers can notify Google and ask for reimbursement," Wong said.
"We investigate those clicks, and if we determine they were invalid, we reimburse advertisers for them," she said.
"We will continue to do that, and believe that this settlement is further proof of our willingness to work together with advertisers to reimburse invalid clicks," she added.