On January 13, 2017 fourteen locksmiths across the USA filed a lawsuit against Google, Yahoo, and Bing for flooding their search results with fake listings. The attorney defending them is Jeffrey Roberts in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. The lawsuit explains that these search engines are the primary avenue for consumers to seek locksmiths and together the 3 search engines control 90% of organic searches originating in the US.
They also claim that the search engines are aware of this problem and are including fake listings deliberately:
Defendants knowingly and deliberately flood organic search results displayed in response to
queries such as “locksmith” (and related terms) with scam locksmith listings they know:
- do not exist at all, or at least not at the locations indicated,
- operate for the purpose of defrauding the consumer public,
- are not licensed in jurisdictions mandating locksmith licensing,
- are unregistered to do business in jurisdictions (such as DC) requiring business
The claim continues to say that the presence of these fake listings cause the legitimate companies to be forced into paying for ads just so customers can see them. The locksmiths also claim to have lost 30-60% of their gross revenue since 2009 and many others have gone out of business because of the search engines’ actions. For one of the locksmiths, this amounts to over $1 million per year. It references a report that suggests Google is aware of the issue and yet doing nothing about it.
Defendants deliberately bury legitimate locksmiths such as Plaintiffs under a long list in their organic results, or within a large cluster of map pinpoints (created by Defendants) that putative locksmiths Defendants knows are scam operations that do not exist at those addresses. Defendants do this in order to compel both the legitimate and scam locksmiths to pay for advertising positions in Defendants’ paid results that locksmiths (including Plaintiffs) would otherwise not purchase at all.
My feeling is that Google’s response to this lawsuit and many other similar headaches spam gives them will be to roll out advanced verification nationwide this year.