Saturday, July 2, 2022

Lawsuit alleges that Google’s ‘Order Online’ button is diverting customers away from restaurants’ sites

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Google faces lawsuit from a Florida restaurant chain owner accusing the company of redirecting users to Google’s “unauthorized” food ordering web pages, where it uses restaurant names “without their approval,” as for the first time reported by Ars Technica

A copy of the lawsuit claims that Google uses “bait-and-switch” tactics by placing the “Order Online” button at the top of restaurant profile panels on the search engine. The big blue button redirects users to a page where they can select items from a restaurant’s menu and then place an order through various third-party services such as Postmates, DoorDash, and UberEats – not through the restaurant itself. These services charge a commission from participating restaurants, which varies, for example, from 15 to 30 percent with UberEats

The lawsuit alleges that Google “prominently lists” the names of restaurants on its ordering pages with the purported purpose of “deliberately confusing consumers into accessing and interacting with its websites.” If a customer places an order through this page using a third-party service, the restaurant will be charged a fee and the lawsuit alleges that Google will be given “an interim solution.”

The lawsuit seeks class action status on behalf of other restaurants that may have lost orders to Google’s button.

Google rolled out the ‘Order Online’ button for the first time in 2019 Google’s support pageIt tells restaurants that they can enable or disable the ordering feature, but it remains unclear whether it is enabled by default.

Google spokesperson Ashley Thompson said in an emailed statement: The edge that the lawsuit represents a “mischaracterization” of the product and that the company “will vigorously defend itself”.

“Our goal is to connect customers with restaurants where they want to order food and make it easier for them to do so via the ‘Order Online’ button,” Thompson said. “We provide merchants with tools to indicate whether they support online orders or have a preference for a specific provider, including their own ordering website. We do not receive compensation for orders or integrations with this feature.”

In 2019, Grubhub was criticized for buying thousands of domain names that closely resembled certain restaurants without going through the restaurants. These sites would feature a restaurant’s name, menu, and sometimes even logo, along with an online order form through Grubhub. Last year, the city of Chicago sued Grubhub and DoorDash for “unfair and deceptive” practices, and fake websites were just one of the charges in the lawsuit.

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