A Brit biz masquerading as Google to "sell" a free business listing service has wound up in the High Court.
Manchester-based Movette falsely represented itself as Google when selling its service to manage the online "Google My Business" listings of its customers.
The company was incorporated in September 2013 and charged a fee of between £199 and £249 for a 12-month contract. The company’s financial records showed it received fees totalling £537,000.
An investigation by the Insolvency Service found Movette had been the subject of a significant volume of complaints to regulatory bodies such as Action Fraud and Trading Standards during its two-and-a-half year trading history.
The probe revealed the company had falsely stated that customers would lose their existing services from Google if payment was not made.
A number of people have previously complained about Movette's fraudulent activity on company review site Trust Pilot.
"I was relentless pursued by this company and eventually paid the bill of nearly £300. I am gutted that I caved in," wrote one.
Another wrote: "Last year I received a call from 'Google' saying they have been looking after my site for a year (which they hadn't) and now was time to pay the yearly fee."
Colin Cronin, investigation supervisor with the Insolvency Service, said: "Movette used deceptive methods to persuade customers to sign up for its service, including stating or implying that it represented or was connected to Google.
"The company then made it difficult for customers to extract themselves from rolling contracts and used debt collection methods which were coercive and intimidatory."
He said the IS is urging any business which is contacted by cold-call and invited to sign up for a Google My Business listing to make full enquiries into the service being offered before entering into any agreement.
"Google My Business is, in fact, a free service which allows businesses to enter and update information with the intention of marketing themselves to users of the search engine." ®