Ride hailing service Uber has instructed its lawyers to begin legal proceedings against mobile agency Fetch Media to answer allegations of ad fraud; including failure to return rebates and misrepresenting the effectiveness of its mobile ads.
Fetch is being sued for breach of contract, fraud and negligence in relation to a contract to purchase and place mobile ads which direct potential riders to Uber’s own app. This saw it coordinate different ad networks to purchase ad inventory from a variety of publishers on Uber’s behalf.
In doing so however the Dentsu subsidiary is accused of misrepresenting the effectiveness of its mobile media strategy by failing to ‘prevent and remediate fraud among the networks and publishers’.
Uber is seeking a minimum of $40m in damages after claiming Fetch ‘squandered tens of millions of dollars’ snapping up nonexistent, nonviewable or fraudulent ads which it then sought to cover up.
Uber was first alerted to the fact that its ads were being run on blacklisted site, Breitbart News, in January. It then asked Fetch to shut down several ad networks that were showing the ads on the blacklisted site. But despite these networks being shut down, the brand saw no negative impact to the amount of app downloads recorded by Fetch, the report claims.
This, Uber suggested, made it clear that Fetch was facilitating online ad fraud and charging the brand based on false claims.
Uber said it suspended the Fetch campaign in March 2017 and began withholding payments to the agency upon discovering the issues. However, Fetch claims that the agency itself terminated the contract with Uber "months ago".
In an official statement, Uber said: “With Fetch, we learned the age-old lesson ‘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.”
Advertising fraud is becoming a growing concern with a number of high profile cases making the news; most recently with Google being forced to issue refunds to advertisers over fake traffic.
Fetch has denied claims made by Uber, saying it will "set the record straight". Its parent company Dentsu Aegis has not commented on the case. The Japanese division of the holding group was embroiled in its own digital advertising scandal last year when it was found to have repeatedly overcharged clients for work.
Additonal reporting by Jessica Goodfellow.