Uber on Monday filed a lawsuit against advertising agency Fetch, accusing Dentsu Aegis Network’s subsidiary of fraud and asking for $40 million in damages. The San Francisco, California-based company alleges that Fetch ran fraudulent ad campaigns on its behalf, stating that it served ads through websites with which it didn’t want to be associated and adding that a significant portion of app downloads Fetch claimed didn’t come through its ads. Uber paid over $82.5 million to Fetch in a period from 2015 to Q1 2017 and has withheld approximately $7 million from the firm after discovering what it described as “a wild west” of digital ad fraud, according to its Monday statement.
In an emailed statement sent to some media outlets earlier today, Fetch Chief Executive Officer James Connelly dismissed the claims as unsubstantiated and “purposefully inflammatory,” stating that the multinational advertising agency doesn’t treat the issue of ad fraud lightly and has even advised its former client on how to minimize its effects, in addition to employing other measures to combat the malicious practice, with its related initiatives supposedly starting even before it took on Uber as a client. Mr. Connelly also claims everyone at Fetch was surprised by the lawsuit and is now adamant to “set the record straight,” i.e. prove that Uber is taking advantage of an industry-wide issue to escape media scrutiny and the fact that it failed to fulfill its contractual obligations – pay the agency for its services on time. Fetch CEO claims that the company’s business relationship with the ride-hailing service provider ended “months ago” after Uber stopped paying for its services.
Mr. Connelly claims that Fetch delivered on the goals it agreed with Uber, suggesting that the company’s lawsuit is without merit. While the firm’s chief indicated that the advertising agency is seeking to respond to the latest turn of events in an aggressive manner, it’s currently unclear whether its next course of action could realistically involve an official counter-claim. Uber’s filing is still being processed by a competent court and no hearing dates have yet been scheduled. The ride-hailing giant is also currently preparing for a legal battle with Alphabet’s Waymo where it’s set to play the role of a defendant, and while that trial was scheduled to start in mid-October, it may be postponed by the plaintiff’s request.