Facebook Ad Buyers Secure Class Certification in Facebook Inflated “Reach” Advertisement Case

On Tuesday, Judge James Donato certified injunctive relief and damages classes in the fraud case against Meta Platforms Inc. Notably, the opinion opened with a rebuke of Meta’s brief, which reportedly contained many “underdeveloped” arguments that gave the court “ample justification to disregard them.”

Small businesses who purchased advertisements filed the putative class action in 2018 accusing Meta of inflating its potential advertising reach to consumers and charging artificially high premiums for ad placements. The case shed claims through the dismissal phase, leaving the court to consider whether to certify the plaintiffs’ fraudulent misrepresentation and fraudulent concealment claims for damages, and California Unfair Competition Law claim for injunctive relief.

Not only did Meta oppose class certification, it also directed the court to an opinion filed by a fellow Northern District of California judge denying class certification in a consumer case against Google over its advertising placement program.

Unpersuaded, the court largely ruled in the plaintiffs’ favor, finding the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure’s class certification requirements satisfied. As to typicality, Judge Donato determined that the plaintiffs “adduced evidence indicating that, regardless of size or buying power, Meta’s customers saw similar representations by Meta about its advertising reach and programs.”

On the issues of commonality and predominance, the court ruled that the principal liability question is uniform for all class members: “did Meta’s Potential Reach metric mislead advertisers?” The defendant reportedly disagreed, “hurl[ing] a grab bag of challenges to plaintiffs’ ability of proving an answer in their favor.” Judge Donato dismissed these counterpoints as impertinent at the certification stage.

Meta also opposed the plaintiffs’ experts. As to the report and testimony of one witness, the court agreed. The opinion said that “Mr. McFarlane’s report does not offer any specialized or scientific expertise, or anything beyond the typical knowledge and experience of a jury.” As such, Judge Donato excluded the opinion as improper expert testimony.

The court directed the plaintiffs to file a proposed notice dissemination plan by April 29. Facebook is represented by Latham & Watkins LLP and the plaintiffs by class counsel Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC and Law Offices of Charles Reichmann.