Another day, another manner technology giants are found to be profiting handsomely from unsavory advertising practices. Today brings the information, as mentioned by the Sunday Times, that Google has reaped “millions” from dishonest businesses that advertise online as help lines for individuals suffering from addiction, but in fact funnel those individuals to costly private practices, earning huge commissions.
The fundamental idea is simple, and sound: somebody looking for “assist quitting pain pills” or anything like that ought to be connected with the proper tools, and ostensibly that’s exactly what help lines like those researched from the Sunday Times’ undercover team do.
However, profit-oriented private clinics, which charge thousands of dollars for their services, have begun offering huge referral rewards for sending patients their management. Along with the referrers, in order to snag these people in need ahead of the competition, have begun paying more and more for prime Google placement.
The report shows that referrers were paying up to £200, approximately $270, for one clickthrough. But that’s just a drop in the bucket should they refer someone to a clinic, bringing ten or even twenty grand. Plus it purchased them consultation with Google agents who allegedly helped keep them at the top of the results.
It can be that the people searching for help did eventually find it. But naturally, they were not advised of any of these financial structures.
Might be nice to know that the ostensibly objective help line you’re calling is earning huge commissions out of the places it refers you to, right? That’s why “patient brokering,” because it’s sometimes known as, is banned in a lot of the united states. And why Google doesn’t let such advertisements here; it banned the entire class in September.
In a statement, Google said that it had now chose to create that ban use to the UK too.
Substance abuse is an increasing crisis and has led to deceptive practices by intermediaries that we need to better comprehend. In the united states we restricted advertisements completely within this class and we’ve opted to expand this to the UK as we consult with local experts to update our policy and find a better way to link those that want help with the therapy they want.
One needn’t be too much of a cynic to find a few things worth asking. If it’s a matter of medical ethics, why were the advertisements allowed in the UK at all? Why not extend the ban worldwide? Why did it take an investigative report to induce Google to “decide” to change its policy when presumably it had the resources to recognize these issues itself?
There are, of course, significant differences in how these clinics are controlled and allowed to operate between the united states and UK, with (as you may expect) less regulation at the prior. So a one-size-fits-all ban could be early and possibly even detrimental to people searching for assistance. Consulting with experts is a fantastic beginning.
Yet one would hope that, having found unkind slimy tactics in a company in one major marketplace, Google could have been more educated about looking into the presence of those tactics elsewhere. After all, it may be a niche but this wasn’t chump change: we’re talking about millions of dollars here.
This appears to be another entry in the log of internet companies making money from good actors and poor, just cutting off the poor when someone else points it out. They ’re pleased to apologize and adjust the policy afterwards, but seem to have remarkably little foresight in regards to locating such things on their own.
Read more: https://techcrunch.com