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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Google Caught Accepting Illegal AdWords Campaigns

Posted by @ 12:46 am

A recent report by BBC has revealed that Google UK is facing some serious allegations of running ads for illegal Olympic ticket resellers.

The issue was first bought to light by a customer who tried purchasing tickets for the upcoming London Olympics 2012 event.

The actual story as told by the customer (Liz):
Me and my sisters decided to club together to buy our mum and dad some Olympic tickets, so we typed into Google ‘Olympic tickets’ and at the very, very top of the page was a link to a company called LiveOlympicTickets.

It was a sponsored ad at the top of the page, so we presumed it was a trusted official site, and we spent £750 on two tickets for my mum and dad to see the 1500m, which is what my dad really wanted.

However, after placing her order, she received an email from the company informing her that they could not complete the sale until she faxed over a copy of her signature.

“That’s when alarm bells began ringing” said Liz who went to report this matter to Google and received the following reply from the search company:

While Google AdWords provides a platform for companies to advertise their services, we are not responsible for, nor are we able to monitor the actions of each company.

The advert the customer clicked on was one placed by Google’s own AdWords advertising service – its infamous money making source.

Google has been criticized for its slow response to this issue, it was a week between when the police asked Google to remove the ads and when they were taken down and the revenues generated thorough the fake adverts seized by Google.

When asked why they took so long to take action against the illegal advertisements Google said:

We have a set of policies covering which ads can and cannot show on Google. These policies and guidelines are enforced by both automated systems and human beings. When we are informed of ads which break our policies, we investigate (human investigation) and remove them if appropriate. Our aim is to create a simple and efficient way for legitimate businesses to promote and sell their goods and services whilst protecting them and consumers from illicit activity.


For those unaware, it is a crime in the UK to sell/resell Olympics tickets without the permission of the organizing committee.

It is certainly surprising that Google hasn’t learnt  from their previous mistakes – only recently in 2011 Google was found to be profiting from illegal AdWords advertising (for Canadian pharmacies) and had to pay $500 million to avoid legal action. Prior to this back in 2007, Google had paid $3 million over illegal advertising of online gambling sites.

I wonder if/when Google will introduce a more efficient system to catch illegal advertisers.

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