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Uber Cali goes ballistic, calls online ads bogus: These million-dollar banners are something quite atrocious

Advertising firm sued by taxi app maker

By Shaun Nichols, 19 Sep 2017

Updated Uber has filed suit against one of its advertising partners, alleging it bilked the ride-sharing giant out of "tens of millions" of dollars.

The suit [PDF], filed in the Northern California US District Court, claims that Fetch Media billed Uber for more than $82.5m in mobile ads that were either not run or were not properly displayed and tracked.

According to Uber's complaint, Fetch took its advertising money under the guise of spending on legitimate mobile ad campaigns that would result in installations of the Uber app.

Those campaigns were tracked and reported back to Uber with updates and transparency reports that, Uber alleges, were falsified to show that the ads were more effective at reaching customers and generating installations than they really were.

Rather, Uber alleges, the money was going to networks that were running fraudulent campaigns such as "click spamming" ads.

"Uber put its trust and confidence in Fetch to purchase and place digital advertisements on Uber's behalf. Uber paid a premium price and agreed to a high-volume mobile advertising campaign where spending reached millions of dollars per week because Fetch represented it had the expertise to meet Uber's growth objectives," the complaint reads.

"Instead, Fetch squandered tens of millions of dollars to purchase nonexistent, nonviewable and/or fraudulent advertising. Fetch knew about the problems in the mobile inventory it purchased on Uber's behalf, and concealed those facts from Uber."

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The complaint goes on to allege that not only was Fetch aware that it was spending Uber's money on fraudulent campaigns, but it also encouraged the ad networks it was paying to fudge their traffic numbers.

"In other words," Uber writes, "after a publisher was caught red-handed, for example click spamming, Fetch would reward the bad actor with additional volume and opportunities to report fake clicks."

Fetch did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.

The complaint alleges ten counts in total: breach of contract, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing, breach of fiduciary duty, constructive fraud, fraud, negligent misrepresentation, professional negligence, negligence, unfair competition, unjust enrichment.

Uber is now asking for a jury trial to determine and award damages. ®

Updated to add

Fetch CEO James Connelly has been in touch to say:

We are shocked by Uber’s allegations which are unsubstantiated, completely without merit, and purposefully inflammatory so as to draw attention away from Uber’s unprofessional behaviour and failure to pay suppliers. Fetch terminated its agreement with Uber months ago after Uber stopped paying invoices for services provided by over fifty small business suppliers, engaged by Fetch to place Uber’s mobile advertising.

Following months of non payment, Uber eventually raised unsubstantiated claims relating to ad-fraud as a reason not to pay its invoices, but there is no basis to these claims. Fetch not only delivered Uber’s strategic goals, helping it acquire over 37 million new users since 2014, but also achieved an outstanding rating from the client throughout the two-year relationship. In the same period Fetch advised Uber on tactics to reduce ad fraud in mobile advertising.

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