Google accuses SEO biz Local Lighthouse of false claims, robo-calls

No one can guarantee a spot on the first page of results, says ad goliath


Google has taken exception to SEO outfit Local Lighthouse that apparently wrongly implied it has an affiliation with The Chocolate Factory.

The American web goliath has taken legal action against the smaller biz in the northern district of California, alleging Local Lighthouse uses nuisance calls to sell its services. Google accuses the Costa Mesa, California-based SEO gang of breaking laws on trademarks, unfair competition, and false advertising.

The whole business of gaming Google's engine attracts charlatans who reckon they can get your organization or project at the top of the first page of web search results. In its court paperwork [PDF] filed on Wednesday, Google claims:

Defendant's statements guaranteeing first-page placement in GOOGLE search results constitute false statements about Defendant's services because no SEO company, including Defendant, can guarantee such placement. These statements also constitute false statements about Google's services, because the necessary implication of such statements is that first-page placement in GOOGLE search results can be guaranteed through SEO methods.

But it's the alleged affiliation that has really upset Google:

Google is informed and believes, and based thereon alleges, that Defendant's sales agents have made and continue to make various false and misleading claims during Defendant's telemarketing calls to confuse consumers regarding the true source or nature of Defendant's services and the relationship between Google and Defendant. These include: (i) claims that Defendant's sales agents represent Google or are calling on behalf of Google; (ii) claims that Defendant is affiliated with Google or has been contracted by Google to provide SEO services; and (iii) other claims designed to obfuscate Defendant's identity and foster the mistaken belief that Defendant and its services are approved, sponsored, or endorsed by Google.

Google claims Local Lighthouse sales representatives were introducing themselves as "Google Local Listing representatives" – and had been using software to play pre-recorded messages to people in cold-calls, or in other words: robo-dialers. Google has asked for a jury trial.

In its Public Policy Blog, Google sets out its view on automated calling, saying it's illegal under US law, and that anyone using such technology, claiming to be from Google, is a fraud. The action against Local Lighthouse is a shot across the bows against companies that apparently take Google's name in vain and promise the impossible.

In the UK, the Information Commissioner's Office has taken action against nuisance callers, including one that was cold calling to sell cold-calling blockers.

One call-center boss told El Reg that although he'd not tried using robo-cold-callers, he was told by colleagues that automated systems are very effective, albeit less effective than a call center with real people. However, computers making pre-recorded calls appear to be more effective on a cost-for-cost basis.

He told us:

Opt-in [for cold calls] is a very vague term, but it means that someone has signed up for something (a Tesco card, for example) and not specifically asked for third-party calls to be excluded. So opt-in is actually a failure to opt out.

Many people believe that registering with TPS will avoid calls. Opt-in calls do not need to be cleared against the TPS database. The law's a mess.

Many companies will ignore the above rules and call random numbers or any data they can get their hands on. They will also often give misleading messages and withhold or fake CLI.

Our call-center pal does, however, think that there is a place for such direct selling:

If somehow we could get rid of these companies whilst keeping the honest ones, the process would be much more accepted.

The Google case may set a precedent for California, but while the UK communications watchdog Ofcom ran a consultation, we've not seen any plans for the Blighty. ®

Similar topics

Broader topics


Other stories you might like

  • Lonestar plans to put datacenters in the Moon's lava tubes
    How? Founder tells The Register 'Robots… lots of robots'

    Imagine a future where racks of computer servers hum quietly in darkness below the surface of the Moon.

    Here is where some of the most important data is stored, to be left untouched for as long as can be. The idea sounds like something from science-fiction, but one startup that recently emerged from stealth is trying to turn it into a reality. Lonestar Data Holdings has a unique mission unlike any other cloud provider: to build datacenters on the Moon backing up the world's data.

    "It's inconceivable to me that we are keeping our most precious assets, our knowledge and our data, on Earth, where we're setting off bombs and burning things," Christopher Stott, founder and CEO of Lonestar, told The Register. "We need to put our assets in place off our planet, where we can keep it safe."

    Continue reading
  • Conti: Russian-backed rulers of Costa Rican hacktocracy?
    Also, Chinese IT admin jailed for deleting database, and the NSA promises no more backdoors

    In brief The notorious Russian-aligned Conti ransomware gang has upped the ante in its attack against Costa Rica, threatening to overthrow the government if it doesn't pay a $20 million ransom. 

    Costa Rican president Rodrigo Chaves said that the country is effectively at war with the gang, who in April infiltrated the government's computer systems, gaining a foothold in 27 agencies at various government levels. The US State Department has offered a $15 million reward leading to the capture of Conti's leaders, who it said have made more than $150 million from 1,000+ victims.

    Conti claimed this week that it has insiders in the Costa Rican government, the AP reported, warning that "We are determined to overthrow the government by means of a cyber attack, we have already shown you all the strength and power, you have introduced an emergency." 

    Continue reading
  • China-linked Twisted Panda caught spying on Russian defense R&D
    Because Beijing isn't above covert ops to accomplish its five-year goals

    Chinese cyberspies targeted two Russian defense institutes and possibly another research facility in Belarus, according to Check Point Research.

    The new campaign, dubbed Twisted Panda, is part of a larger, state-sponsored espionage operation that has been ongoing for several months, if not nearly a year, according to the security shop.

    In a technical analysis, the researchers detail the various malicious stages and payloads of the campaign that used sanctions-related phishing emails to attack Russian entities, which are part of the state-owned defense conglomerate Rostec Corporation.

    Continue reading
  • FTC signals crackdown on ed-tech harvesting kid's data
    Trade watchdog, and President, reminds that COPPA can ban ya

    The US Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said it intends to take action against educational technology companies that unlawfully collect data from children using online educational services.

    In a policy statement, the agency said, "Children should not have to needlessly hand over their data and forfeit their privacy in order to do their schoolwork or participate in remote learning, especially given the wide and increasing adoption of ed tech tools."

    The agency says it will scrutinize educational service providers to ensure that they are meeting their legal obligations under COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act.

    Continue reading
  • Mysterious firm seeks to buy majority stake in Arm China
    Chinese joint venture's ousted CEO tries to hang on - who will get control?

    The saga surrounding Arm's joint venture in China just took another intriguing turn: a mysterious firm named Lotcap Group claims it has signed a letter of intent to buy a 51 percent stake in Arm China from existing investors in the country.

    In a Chinese-language press release posted Wednesday, Lotcap said it has formed a subsidiary, Lotcap Fund, to buy a majority stake in the joint venture. However, reporting by one newspaper suggested that the investment firm still needs the approval of one significant investor to gain 51 percent control of Arm China.

    The development comes a couple of weeks after Arm China said that its former CEO, Allen Wu, was refusing once again to step down from his position, despite the company's board voting in late April to replace Wu with two co-chief executives. SoftBank Group, which owns 49 percent of the Chinese venture, has been trying to unentangle Arm China from Wu as the Japanese tech investment giant plans for an initial public offering of the British parent company.

    Continue reading
  • SmartNICs power the cloud, are enterprise datacenters next?
    High pricing, lack of software make smartNICs a tough sell, despite offload potential

    SmartNICs have the potential to accelerate enterprise workloads, but don't expect to see them bring hyperscale-class efficiency to most datacenters anytime soon, ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala told The Register.

    SmartNICs are widely deployed in cloud and hyperscale datacenters as a means to offload input/output (I/O) intensive network, security, and storage operations from the CPU, freeing it up to run revenue generating tenant workloads. Some more advanced chips even offload the hypervisor to further separate the infrastructure management layer from the rest of the server.

    Despite relative success in the cloud and a flurry of innovation from the still-limited vendor SmartNIC ecosystem, including Mellanox (Nvidia), Intel, Marvell, and Xilinx (AMD), Kerravala argues that the use cases for enterprise datacenters are unlikely to resemble those of the major hyperscalers, at least in the near term.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022