Almost everyone, it seems, has received one: a call falsely claiming that your business listing on Google is about to expire. Many people also receive deceptive robocalls from marketing companies claiming to represent or be authorized by Google.
One such UK-based company, Movette, was just shut down by regulators for using fraudulent tactics to sell a Google My Business (GMB) listings management service. The firm reportedly convinced numerous small businesses to sign auto-renewing annual contracts, worth between £199 to £249 ($260 to $324, approximately) to manage GMB listings on their behalf.
After numerous complaints over a two-year period about its fraudulent or misleading business practices, the firm was finally shut down. According to the UK regulator, Movette:
- misled customers by stating or implying that it represented or was affiliated to Google when in reality there was no such relationship.
- misled customers by stating or implying that they had an existing contractual relationship with the company when there was no such relationship.
- falsely stated or implied that customers would lose their existing services from Google if payment was not made to the company.
- failed to make clear to customers that their contracts would automatically renew after 12 months and ignored or rejected requests made by customers to cancel.
- used debt collection methods which were offensive and threatening.
The company billed nearly $700,000 in the past two years under these contracts. Records reflect that it was initially incorporated in 2013.
In the past, Google has sued companies in the US that use similar tactics to prey on small businesses. It also maintains a GMB help page seeking phone numbers of robocallers.
Such calls, however, are often generated by offshore call centers that mask this fact with North American or US numbers. I’ve received a number of these calls this week. When I ask which companies or firms the callers represent, without exception, they hang up on me.