Update: Details of Google’s Robo Calling Lawsuit Against Local Lighthouse are now available.
Apparently Google is not going to take the abuse from robo callers any more. Today Google is publicly starting to educate the public about rob caller’s abuses in Google’s name AND has apparently initiated its first law suit against a search marketing firm that has apparently been at the forefront of SMB abuse.
Robo callers have long been more than a thorn in the side of small businesses, often calling the same business 6,8,10 times in a week with a common refrain. Masquerading as Google, they inveigle, threaten, cajole or otherwise bullshit the small business into parting with their money.
The reputations of the search industry and Google have been the collateral damage in the robot caller’s battle to profit from ignorance. All too often you would find reports of these characters in the Google My Business Forums, asking how to get Google to stop harassing them. Despite the efforts of many noting that it wasn’t in fact Google, the posters continued to believe that it was Google harassing them or worse, stealing from them.
In today’s post in their “Safety Center”, titled Report Robocall Scams (cross posted to Google and Your Business) Google, provides tips to protect oneself and is also providing a form to report robo callers directly to Google.
More significantly they have reportedly have taken one company to court. Although I have yet to confirm the specifics of this.
These scammers have been around Google local in one for or another for quite a long time but the robo calling seemed to begin in earnest in 2011 when Google Local was really taking off. I have frequently written about the need for Google/government cooperation to stop scammers as reports continued to come in of wide spread abuse.
They have been able to get away with their crimes for so long because of our incredibly lax intra-state regulatory environment and because Google, for whatever reason, was not willing to step up and publicly go after robo callers despite the evident harm to Google’s reputation.
Whether this has changed remains to be seen. Google’s education attempt seems to be a small and perhaps not a big enough effort on their part. It is true that some of these players have artfully hidden behind easy to mask phone networks. But some of them are in fact, Google AdWords resellers and many of them have had permanent offices often not too far from Google. A steady stream of lawsuits would send a very clear message.
From where I sit, these criminals have had at least 4 years of mostly free rein. Hopefully the next 4 years won’t continue to bring SMB tales of abuse in the name of Google.
Maybe Google really won’t take it any more. Maybe local businesses will no longer be abused in Google’s name. But Google at times seems to suffer from ADD and forgets what it set out to do last week. Hopefully Google really is getting tough and this will be part of an on-going campaign to work publicly and privately to put in place legal and other structures to prevent and if need be prosecute this abuse.
I am glad that Google has finally fired a salvo in what might be a long war. I just hope that their efforts are aggressive, very public, continuous and not just a single volley.
Update: Details of Google’s Robo Calling Lawsuit Against Local Lighthouse are now available.Robo Callers - Google is not going to take it any more - Files Lawsuit by Mike Blumenthal