Guardian News & Media Ltd, owner of the Guardian newspaper, and U.S. advertising technology company The
have reached a settlement in a legal dispute over alleged hidden fees, the companies said.
The Guardian filed a lawsuit in the Chancery Division of London’s High Court in March 2017, alleging that Rubicon Project charged fees to buyers of the London-based newspaper’s advertising inventory without disclosing them to the publisher.
The Guardian sought unspecified damages for what the suit claimed was a breach of fiduciary duty and a breach of contract, deceit and misrepresentation, court papers show.
In a countersuit filed in the High Court in May last year, Rubicon Project denied the allegations, saying it was entitled to charge the fees and the Guardian had consented to them.
Rubicon Project provides technology that publishers use to sell ads to advertisers, who bid for available space in the milliseconds it takes to open up a web page.
In its countersuit, the company said it disclosed the fact that it levied fees on ad buyers in its contract with the Guardian. Rubicon also said in a statement in March last year the company disclosed its buyer fees publicly in its Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Rubicon Project claimed the Guardian had caused loss and damage by letting other ad-tech vendors sell “at least some of” its online advertising inventory.
The companies have now “mutually agreed to resolve their dispute” through a confidential settlement on Oct. 11, Rubicon Project said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday.
The settlement is “immaterial to the company from a financial standpoint,” the filing said.
“Because the settlement is a purely commercial one, it does not assign any liability to either party—whether Rubicon Project in respect to the Guardian’s claims, or the Guardian in respect to our counterclaims,” Rubicon Project Chief Executive Officer Michael Barrett said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for Guardian News and Media said in a statement the company is “pleased to have reached a settlement of this dispute, and that proceedings have been discontinued.”
Had the case reached court, it would have shone a light on the complicated nature of the online advertising ecosystem, which is under scrutiny from marketers seeking to clear up ambiguity over fees to ensure their advertising dollars are well spent.
Some so-called supply-side platforms charge both publishers and ad buyers using their technology and services, while others only charge publishers. In November last year, Rubicon Project stopped charging buyers.
Marketers and publishers alike are keen to cut down on the so-called ad-tech tax—fees taken by the various middlemen in the chain between an advertiser initiating a campaign and an ad appearing on a publisher website or app.