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Click fraud lawsuit targets IAC's Citysearch

A plaintiff-only firm that has successfully gone after Yahoo and Google in the past says Citysearch is "encouraging" click fraud.

A Los Angeles-based law firm with a history of targeting online media companies for click fraud filed suit Tuesday against Citysearch, the directory site owned by IAC/InterActiveCorp, as well as Ticketmaster, the ticketing site that IAC is attempting to spin out into a separate publicly traded company.

" is defrauding its advertising customers of millions of dollars by not only turning a blind eye to click fraud, but in fact encouraging it as well," a statement from the firm Kabateck Brown Kellner read. The class action suit encompasses anyone in the U.S. who paid for pay-per-click advertising space on Citysearch, but the named plaintiff is Tom Lambotte, who purchased ad space on Citysearch and then claimed that the number of clicks on his ads rose suspiciously.

Representatives from IAC and Citysearch were not immediately available for comment.

According to the complaint, filed in a California court, Lambotte first purchased Citysearch ads in late 2007, didn't see a gain in traffic to his site, and attempted to cancel his ad account. The cancellation process dragged out, he said, and in the meantime his ad clicks started to escalate suspiciously. He speculated that click fraud--in which clicks to ads are meant only to drive up the rate the advertiser pays and not to purchase the product--was at play.

Claims in click fraud lawsuits are sometimes questionable, and Kabateck Brown Kellner has extensive experience in the field that could raise a red flag: the plaintiff-only firm has won against both Yahoo and Google, and attorney Brian Kabateck recently , claiming that it deceived customers.

Consequently, a suit against yet another (smaller) player in the search market could come across as an attempt to just filch more cash from big dot-coms. Or, as the suit goes forward, Lambotte's claims, as represented by Kabateck, could show a legitimate foundation.

Search companies, meanwhile, announced a coalition against click fraud nearly two years ago in conjunction with the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Media Rating Council.