Uber sues Fetch Media for fraudulent advertising

Uber, the ride-hailing app, is suing Fetch Media Ltd. for click fraud, after the advertising company allegedly billed Uber for ‘fake’ online adverts. Fetch, owned by Dentsu Inc., then apparently attributed app downloads to the campaign which weren’t actually coming from it.

James Connelly, Chief Executive Officer at Fetch, said in a statement:

“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 behavior and failure to pay suppliers. We vigorously deny the allegations from Uber and will be responding robustly to ensure we set the record straight.”

Uber says it first noticed that something was wrong when ads appeared on the Breitbart news site which were supposed to be blacklisted. Fetch supposedly reported clicks from Breitbart as coming from other websites.

The lawsuit was filed on Monday afternoon in San Francisco District Court. Uber is seeking $40 million in damages, people close to the matter told Bloomberg. In a statement, the company said:

With Fetch, we learned the age-old ‘buyer beware’ the hard way. Fetch was running a wild west of online advertising fraud, allowing Uber ads on websites we wanted nothing to do with, and fraudulently claiming credit for app downloads that happened without a customer ever clicking on an ad.

If the allegations are true, the case highlights just how deep the issue of digital advertising fraud has become for the industry.

Fetch actually acknowledges the scale of the problem and partnered with ad fraud protection agency Forensiq to analyse its mobile app-install campaigns for clients. Steve Hobbs, Global Head of Media, Fetch, then said:

“Where there’s money, there is fraud. Being 100 percent on top of it is an impossibility, but we think with Forensiq’s help we can get it significantly lower.”

Between 2015 and 2017, Uber paid over $82.5 million for ads through Fetch. Now, the app maker refuses to pay an additional $7 million it still owes to Fetch.

What’s interesting about the case is that it turns out Uber was doing pretty well in terms of organic installs without advertising. The entire campaign with Fetch was originally suspended back in March 2017. However, overall organic app installations continue to increase by almost the same amount as before.