Uber Technologies Inc. is accustomed to getting sued. Now it’s doing the suing. And it’s partly thanks to Breitbart News.
The global ride-hailing company is taking advertising agency Fetch Media Ltd. to court for click fraud, alleging that the firm improperly billed Uber for “fake” online ads and took credit for app downloads it had nothing to do with. Fetch is owned by the world’s fourth-largest advertising company, Japan’s Dentsu Inc.
Uber filed the lawsuit Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. The company said it discovered something was amiss when it canceled a campaign on the conservative website Breitbart, where Fetch was placing Uber ads. As part of the lawsuit, Uber plans to seek at least $40 million in damages, according to people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified disclosing legal plans. Fetch didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
Going on the offensive in court is a rare move for Uber. The company is a plaintiff in only two federal cases, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Meanwhile, it has been a named defendant in about 250 federal cases. The data aren’t comprehensive but show Uber is usually on the defensive.
Online advertising fraud has been a problem for the industry since the dawn of the internet. The practice has grown more sophisticated in recent years along with the amount spent on such ads. Fetch has acknowledged the challenge publicly and said it was working with research firm Forensiq to “fight against mobile ad fraud.”
“One of the biggest challenges we face as digital marketers is to reduce mobile ad fraud,” James Connelly, Fetch’s chief executive officer, said a year ago.