Facebook Inc. asked a California federal judge on Monday to toss a putative class action alleging the company misled advertisers with false consumer viewing metrics, saying the data was a free service it was not contractually obligated to provide and that the errors were covered by the website’s software glitch disclaimer.
Facebook attorney Ashok Ramani of Keker, Van Nest & Peters LLP told U.S. District Judge Thelton E. Henderson at Monday’s hearing that the video advertisements were run as promised, and that Facebook’s incorrect metrics didn’t flout contractual promises because those statistics were offered “as a free service” not covered by the agreements.
Ramani said the advertising contracts included a stipulation that Facebook couldn’t guarantee its site would “always be safe, secure or error-free, or that Facebook will always function without disruption, delays or imperfections.” He said such a disclosure of potential harms meant the advertisers couldn’t bring a claim under California’s unfair competition law, and that imperfections were common in the industry.
“There’s a specific disclosure on this issue that says, ‘We try to keep Facebook bug-free and-safe, but you use it at your own risk,’” he said. “It’s not a get-out-of-jail-free card, but anyone who’s dealt with software knows bugs may arise.”
The judge’s ruling on the motion to dismiss will determine the fate of the suit alleging Facebook’s metrics induced the plaintiffs to continue buying space from the social media giant at a higher rate than they may have been willing to pay had the metrics been accurate.
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