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Firm agrees to pay $90m

SAN FRANCISCO -- Google Inc. has agreed to pay $90 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the online search engine leader overcharged thousands of advertisers who paid for bogus sales referrals generated through a ruse known as ''click fraud."

The proposed settlement, revealed by the company yesterday, would apply to all advertisers in Google's network during the past four years.

Any website showing improper charges dating back to 2002 will be eligible for an account credit that could be used toward future ads distributed by Google.

The total value of the credits available to advertisers will be lower than $90 million because Google has earmarked part of that amount to cover lawyers' fees.

The proposed settlement still requires final court approval.

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