SteelHouse Files A Countersuit Against Criteo As Click Fraud Blame Game Rages On

SHCat fight.

Shortly after Criteo sued competitor SteelHouse for allegedly engaging in click fraud and falsely representing its service to clients, the latter is firing back.

SteelHouse filed a counterclaim against Criteo in the Central District of California court early Tuesday, alleging that “In an effort to win back customers, injure SteelHouse and blunt SteelHouse’s successful and lawful competition, Criteo has resorted to gamesmanship and unlawful tactics.” Read the lawsuit.

SteelHouse claims that following Criteo’s initial complaint, SteelHouse has lost “more than 25 customers.”

As a result, it is seeking “actual, punitive, treble and compensatory damages and attorneys’ fees” and injunctions keeping Criteo from “disparaging SteelHouse.”

SteelHouse also wants a judicial order prohibiting Criteo from alleged actions like falsely attributing clicks and inflating click counts.

SteelHouse says that after analyzing third-party customer data, it discovered that 52% of Criteo’s clicks do not originate from a known site or publisher, while 16% stem from users who click the same ad within a 30-minute period.

It did not specify its data sources, but it claims this figure is eight times the industry standard and demonstrative of practices that drive counterfeit clicks.

SteelHouse claims Criteo “compounded that behavior by making false, misleading and malicious statements about SteelHouse, directly to its customers, prior to the filing of any lawsuit.”

As a result, SteelHouse asserts that its business has suffered substantial harm, which has resulted in “loss of actual and potential clients and loss of revenue.” 

In a previous bake-off with SteelHouse, Criteo had used a third-party traffic analysis tool called Telerik to analyze log-level data and claimed it found evidence that SteelHouse gamed the attribution system through a practice called cookie stuffing.

Drawing from the lawsuit it filed in June, Criteo claimed SteelHouse stuffed its own code into an iframe layered under a legitimate landing page. SteelHouse’s tracking pixel would allegedly render out of view, gain credit for the click and then collapse the browser in less than 10 seconds to avert detection.

SteelHouse’s lawsuit, on the other hand, claims Criteo “regularly injects adware into users’ personal computers, serves ad impressions through adware and buys inventory from nonreputable sources.”

SteelHouse also takes issue with Criteo’s methodology, which it claims enables Criteo to drive the highest click rate in the space and therefore maintain its plum position in a volatile public market for ad tech, “somehow outperforming its competitors by more than 400%, including Google, Facebook and others.”

SteelHouse claims it tripled its revenue in 2015 and finished the year at a $130 million run rate. This year, SteelHouse claims it will convert its CPC pricing model into flat CPM pricing based on a SaaS model with no markup on media.

Criteo provided this statement to AdExchanger: “In line with Criteo’s Corporate Communications Policy, we do not comment on ongoing legal investigations and as such will be making no comment on this matter.”

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