Google Files Suit against SEO Firm Accused of Robocalling: Launches Complaint Center for Users

After many years of passivity, Google is finally stepping up to take on Robocallersthat claim affiliation with Google to prey on small businesses. Apart from setting up a new webpage to report scams, Google has also filed a suit on Wednesday against an SEO company for making robocalls. Many people have complained their offices were called on a daily basis asking to update their Google listing. The calls said they could press a number to be removed from the database but even by doing so, the calls would not stop. This is just one of the many complaints that can be found on the Google My Business help forum.

This was Google’s first legal move in fighting against robocallers who claim to work for or with the company. The Operations Manager of Google My Business announced in a blog post that Google has filed a lawsuit against a search engine optimization company for making robocalls and confusing users. The name of the firm is Lighthouse Corp which is based in Tustin, California. The firm used to promote paid search and search engine optimization services.

The lawsuit accused the employees of Local Lighthouse Corp for making false and misleading claims during the defendant’s telemarketing calls that have created confusion amongst consumers regarding the true source or nature of defendant’s services that have deterred the relationship between Google and the defendant by coaxing the defendant into paying hundreds of dollars in recurring monthly bills.

Google also put forward an example stating the sales agents of Local Lighthouse have made false statements claiming they were Google’s subcontractor. They also claimed they were working for Google and that paying so and so would result in the defendant’s webpage to show up multiple times on the front page, resulting in what is called ‘Front Page Domination’.

According to reports, Local Lighthouse Corp has at least given other civil cases filed against it for violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act which makes placing robocalls without permission punishable. Two of the cases were filed in Californian courts while the other was filed in Oregon, North Carolina, and Washington.

Apart from filing a legal notice, Google has also launched a Safety Center page this Wednesday. This new webpage has been launched for users who have received or continue to receive robocalls from companies posing as affiliated with the giant search engine. The page encourages affected users to protect themselves from fraud calls and offers links to report them to Google, including the FTC, Federal Trade Commission and the FCC, Federal Communications Commission.

The calls typically starts with a recording that prompts recipients to push a button to speak with a representative claiming to be an employee of Google, about updating the recipients’ Google My Business Listings or hear how they can get a better position in Google Search or AdWords. The caller’s aim is to mainly sell local SEO services or get login information to hijack business listings or get enough information to spam Maps listings. These calls are illegal in the United States, as the recipients have not given a written consent that allows sales representative to call them from a company.

While businesses have been continuously complaining about getting calls from robocalls for years, and Google’s own reputation has suffered as people have continued to believe Google was itself involved with these calls, the company has hung back from taking direct action, instead directing users to go to National Do Not Call Registry or file complaints with the FTC or FCC.

Google claims the perpetrators are difficult to get ahold of as they often use untraceable phone numbers and establish fake company names and a global network of intermediaries to make fake calls.  Google may take action, however, by calling users to verify business listings and map details and other products. The company claims the calls were often made from live representatives and were never automated in the first place unless specifically requested by the user. If you happen to receive a robocall, the best thing to do is to hang up immediately.

Do not push a button because as soon as you do, they’ll get your number and will most likely start calling youfrequently. The address made by Google on Wednesday shows the giant search engine will pay more attention to robocalls that have been taking advantage of small businesses.