Google finally acknowledges that when advertisers are seedy small businesses the publisher has greater responsibility in accepting such advertisements
Consumer groups have been complaining for years about proliferation of fraud ads on Google -- and at least one organization has demanded that search engine giant donate its proceeds from the tainted ads to consumers who have lost their homes. This is a controversy relating to bogus mortgage ads, which have appeared on Google AdWords, according to ConsumerAffairs.com. This brings us to the basic question, who is responsible for the ramifications of the ads- the advertiser or the publisher? Given the size and influence of Google, the answer is clearly the publisher. However, sometimes Google's "Do no evil" mantra seems to really be shorthand for, "Don't get caught helping others do evil."
Now, ConsumerAffairs.com said that a federal agency is opening a criminal investigation of at least 85 companies that use Google AdWords to sell mortgage modification services. Google saw the light and said it is suspending more than 500 advertisers who claim to provide services for troubled homeowners.
Unlike newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets, Google imposes few restrictions on advertisers, relying on guidelines that are often more technical than substantive. The automated AdWords system tries to block certain types of objectionable ads, Google has said, but in most cases, there is no actual human review of an advertisement. Google and other online ad outlets argue that it would be too expensive for them to manually review ads or vet would-be clients. However, not doing so leaves consumers ripe for fleecing, consumer groups have long charged.
ConsumerAffairs.com said that for years, the search engine giant looked other way as online pharmacies used Google AdWords programme to illegally sell prescription drugs online, often without a prescription or across borders. Google recently paid $500 million, one of the largest forfeitures in US history, to settle federal allegations related to the drug ads.
“Google should never have published these ads, but its executives turned a blind eye to these fraudsters for far too long because of the substantial revenue such advertising generates," said John Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project to ConsumerAffairs.com
"The company cannot be allowed to benefit from these ill-gotten gains. Google must donate the money to aid homeowners who were victimized because of its callous quest for profits. Google is highly motivated to turn a blind eye to all sorts of dubious advertising on its search engine because AdWords is such a cash cow," Mr Simpson told to ConsumerAffairs.com.
“The first place many homeowners turn for help in lowering their mortgage is the Internet through online search engines, and that’s precisely where they are being taken advantage of and targeted,” said Christy Romero, Deputy Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) in the report. “Web ads that offer a false sense of hope may not be legitimate and can end up costing homeowners their home."
Romero said SIGTARP has initially shut down 85 alleged online mortgage modification scams that prey on vulnerable homeowners through web banners and other web advertisements.
According to ConsumerAffairs.com and Consumer Watchdog, Google processed more than 74,000 monthly searches on the phrase 'stop foreclosure', with ads alongside costing an average of $8.29 per click, for a monthly total of $613,460, a figure one knowledgeable Internet executive who spoke on the condition of anonymity said was far too low.
The most common schemes included asking homeowners for an up-front fee and telling homeowners to stop paying their mortgage and to cease all contact with their lender. The schemes included diverting mortgage payments to the scammers, transferring property deeds, and releasing sensitive personal financial information. In some instances, the Web sites claimed to be affiliated with the U.S. government through the use of a government seal or name similar to a government agency.
Google’s suspension of these advertising relationships will have a "dramatic and immediate impact" on the ability of scam artists to seek out and victimize unwitting homeowners, Romero said to consumeraffairs.com. Of course, those already victimized by the scams might say the impact would have been a lot more dramatic if the ads had never been allowed to appear in the first place.
Exporters pointed out that buyers are even going to the extent of finding faults with products and have cited the poor economic scenario in their countries to get the maximum price reduction
Chandigarh: With Indian exporters witnessing ‘unexpected’ gains due to rupee depreciation against the US dollar, global buyers have started putting pressure on them to offer discounts of 5%-10% on shipments, citing recessionary conditions or by finding fault with products, reports PTI.
Not wanting to ‘sour’ their trade relations with buyers by getting into any argument amid a weak global economic sentiment, most Punjab exporters working in different industry verticals—including garments, sports goods and light engineering items—have begun to accept the ‘wishes’ of importers.
The rupee, which has been Asia’s worst-performing currency against the greenback, has fallen by a whopping 15% since July this year and is presently hovering above Rs51 a dollar.
“The excitement of the depreciating rupee against the dollar is short-lived, because buyers have started pressurising us to offer the maximum discount on export of products in view of dollar appreciation, which will yield more realisation in rupee terms,” Wool and Woollen Export Promotion Council chairman Ashok Jaidka told PTI today.
Exporters said buyers are projecting that the rupee will soon depreciate to Rs54 per US dollar and have asked for a discount ranging between 20%-25% for booking new orders after factoring in the projected rupee value.
“But after hard bargaining, they finally settle at an 8%-10% discount,” he said.
Exporters pointed out that buyers are even going to the extent of finding faults with products and have cited the poor economic scenario in their countries to get the maximum price reduction.
“It is buyers from Europe and USA, Middle East, African countries who are demanding a price cut,” said Engineering Export Promotion Council regional chairman SC Ralhan.
In the case of hand tools and other light engineering items, Punjab exporters are giving a 2%-5% discount to buyers, exporters said. Punjab’s annual exports amount to over Rs13,000 crore.
While there is some ‘forced’ reduction of product prices, in the sports good sector, there are internal arrangements between exporters and importers whereby exporters automatically decrease the rates of products after the exchange rate breaches a negotiated mark.
“We have to reduce our product rates once exchange rate goes beyond certain mark fixed with our buyer and it goes vice-versa when rupee appreciates,” a Jalandhar-based sports goods-maker disclosed, seeking anonymity.
He said buyers would always want their suppliers to reduce the price after they come to know that exchange rate fluctuation is giving good ‘returns’ to exporters.
However, for some exporters, the fall in the rupee value against the greenback is not seen as a boost in view of a consistent increase in input costs.
“Depreciating rupee is not a thing to cherish for us as input costs like steel have gone up substantially. Moreover, discontinuation of Duty Entitlement Pass Book Scheme was also a dampener for exports,” said Mr Ralhan.
The industry is seeking an early decision on the sugar export policy as global prices are softening and a further delay in announcing the policy would make exports unviable
New Delhi: The meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Food scheduled for today to decide on granting permission for sugar exports has been postponed and is likely to be held tomorrow, reports PTI.
Last week, food minister KV Thomas had said the EGoM headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee would meet on 21st November to decide on sugar exports in the 2011-12 marketing year, which commenced last month.
A senior food ministry official said, “The EGoM meeting has been postponed for tomorrow.”
Sources said the ministry had yet not firmed up its proposal on the quantity of sugar that mills will be allowed to export.
The industry has been demanding permits for the export of 4 million tonnes of sugar in the 2011-12 marketing year (October-September), as the country’s production is estimated at 25-26 million tonnes against annual domestic demand of 22 million tonnes.
In the previous marketing year, the government had allowed 2.6 million tonnes of sugar exports, of which 1.5 million tonnes was through the open general licence (OGL) in three equal tranches.
The industry is seeking an early decision on the sugar export policy as global prices are softening and a further delay in announcing the policy would make exports unviable.
Sugar production in India—the world’s second-largest producer and biggest consumer—rose to 24.3 million tonnes in 2010-11 from nearly 19 million tonnes in the previous year.
In the current marketing year, the government has pegged output at 25 million tonnes, while industry has estimated production at 26 million tonnes.