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Law360 (July 15, 2020, 6:22 PM EDT) — Google unlawfully made more than $1 billion from unauthorized advertisements it places on websites that are searched for in its Android search app, according to a suit filed in California federal court.

In their proposed class action filed on Tuesday, named plaintiffs Best Carpet Values and employment attorney Thomas Rutledge allege that Google displays ads, including those for competitors, on websites found through the tech giant’s “Search App” on its Android phones without permission or payment.

“Google could have and should have monetized its organic results by seeking plaintiffs’ and the class’s permission and purchasing its ads honestly in the digital advertising marketplace,” the proposed class said. “Instead, Google illegally used its technology and leveraged its dominant positions in the Android, internet search and digital advertising markets to circumvent the need for website owners’ consent and to avoid paying for its ordinarily expensive ads.”

The suit claims Google showed its free “leaderboard” and half-page ads at the bottom of websites, and when leaderboard ads were expanded, they blocked 10% to 90% of the content of tens of millions of websites with Google products or affiliated products. According to the suit, if users clicked on the “leaderboard” ads, then they’d be redirected to other sites that contained ads that pay fees or commissions to Google when clicked.

When businesses learned about Google’s conduct, the suit claims that the tech giant’s implicit response was “pay us to advertise for you or we’ll make you advertise for us and for your competitors and detractors for free.” However, the suit alleged that Google didn’t place its leaderboard ads on its own sites or the sites of its competitors, such as Microsoft and Apple.

Alexander H. Schmidt, an attorney for the proposed class, told Law360 that the proposed class wants Google to ask for businesses’ permission to place its ads on their sites, as well as disable the ad-generating feature.

“If Google wants to place display ads on other businesses’ websites, it should do what every other internet advertiser does — obtain the website owners’ consent and pay fair market prices for the ad space,” Schmidt said.

Google faces claims of unjust enrichment, unlawfully interfering with the proposed class’ websites, and violating California’s Unfair Competition Law.

The suit wants Google blocked from continuing the advertising, along with monetary damages. Specifically, the proposed class wants Google ordered to permanently disable the app’s ad-generating feature for every Android phone, and they also want Google blocked from using this feature for other internet-related devices and future products.

Representatives for Google did not respond on Wednesday to requests for comment.

The proposed class is represented by Alexander H. Schmidt Esq., Alex Asil Mashiri of Mashiri Law Firm and D. Anthony Mastando and Eric J. Artrip of Mastando & Artrip LLC.

Counsel information for Google was not immediately available.

The case is Best Carpet Values Inc. et al., case number 5:20-cv-04700, in the U.S. District for the Northern District of California.

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