Google advertising ban bites local IT businesses

A crackdown by Google on advertising for IT support businesses has sparked complaints from local companies who claim the new rule will kill their industry.

Last August, Google announced a wide-ranging ban on advertising which promoted IT support businesses, a move criticised by Sam Walker, co-founder of Sydney-based smartphone repair service Fix2U, as a “knee jerk reaction” that is killing the industry.

The ban says advertising is prohibited by companies offering third-party technical support for consumer technology products and online services, including technical support for troubleshooting, security, virus removal, internet connectivity or software installation.

In a blog post, Walker wrote: “Legitimate businesses offering IT support, laptop and phone repair have been severely impacted by this policy, one which was implemented with no notice or industry consultation.

“Tens of thousands of small companies offering these services are, as a result, facing severe difficulties advertising their businesses via Google’s search platform. If not promptly corrected, this policy will result in lay-offs and business closures across the globe.”

A Google spokesperson told Mumbrella: ““We have seen a rise in misleading ad experiences stemming from third-party tech support providers and have decided to begin restricting ads in this category globally. In the coming months, we will develop a verification program to ensure that only legitimate providers of third-party tech support are reaching users looking for those services.”

Google’s move seeks to address the long-standing problem of service advertisers stuffing the company’s advertising service with adverts for local services quoting low rates when in fact any calls go through to a remote call centre pretending to be a local business. In some cases, a contractor is then dispatched who demands a higher price when they arrive.

Known as the locksmith problem due to the prevalence of the practice among that industry, Google has been fighting this behaviour for nearly a decade.

In announcing the policy last August, Google head of product policy, David Graff, said the company would be restricting advertising from businesses in the tech support sector and in future would require businesses to verify their legitimacy.

“As the fraudulent activity takes place off our platform, it’s increasingly difficult to separate the bad actors from the legitimate providers,” Graff wrote.

“That’s why in the coming months, we will roll out a verification program to ensure that only legitimate providers of third-party tech support can use our platform to reach consumers.”

Nearly three months later, those verification procedures have not been released leaving businesses subject to the blanket, Walker claims.

Google’s verification procedures for local search, currently known as Google My Business, have attracted criticism previously for being opaque and arbitrary, particularly in situations where a business has trigged an alert with the service’s algorithm.

Mumbrella has contacted both Walker for comment


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