Sites offering supposed deals double-charging clients, says report
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/04/2012 -- The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation has asked major search engines to examine moving services that are running bait-and-switch tactics through search results.
The Committee asked Google, Yahoo, and Bing with a single letter. The committee itself recently investigated the matter. In the investigation, they found customers were encountering fraudulent moving services, which falsely boast the same or similar names to larger, more reputable companies.
The committee noted that individuals were paying what they thought was a moving deposit to a reputable company. What the customer was really paying was a brokerage fee. The actual moving company then demands their own fee, costing individuals hundreds or thousands more than the original estimate.
From the letter sent to each search engine company:
“Frequently, Internet moving brokers identified in the investigation, which received high numbers of consumer complaints, ranked highly in the search results. Based upon evidence obtained through the investigation, it appears that some of these companies may be “gaming the system” in order to boost their search rankings.”
“These companies appear to be using paid links to inflate their popularity. For example, one company had tens of thousands of external links to its web sites and, upon closer review, these links proved to be largely irrelevant. They included abandoned blogs, link directories for unrelated topics, and college student groups and organizations, such as the Cornell Gymnastics Club.”
The Committee’s investigation spanned nearly all of 2011. Companies found to be most prominently suspect of the bait-and-switch tactic were Able Moving (carrier), Best Price Moving & Storage (carrier), Nationwide Relocation Services (broker), and Budget Van Lines (broker).
Found to be most egregious was Nationwide Relocation Services. This was in part due to the fact that owner Aldo Disorbo is said to run many services under many different names.
The report said of Disorbo’s business:
“Websites operated by or on behalf of the DiSorbo Broker Companies use questionable website and linking strategies that appear to be intended to enhance the companies’ search engine rankings.
For example, Mr. DiSorbo operates MovingCost.com, a company that purports to provide consumers information about “the most qualified and professional relocation experts in the industry.” The operators of this website have attempted to increase its popularity by embedding text that includes hyperlinks to www.movingcost.com in tens of thousands of other websites.”
In 2011, Google implemented Penguin Update that was to be used to stop spam tactics described in the report. Unfortunately, it appears these sites are capable of side-stepping the supposed capability of Penguin. A committee spokesperson cited specific examples that are occurring:
- “Mover in Surfside” brings up American Van Lines in the top results of all three search engines
- “Raleigh movers” has American Van Lines in the first page of results on Google and the second page for Yahoo and Bing
- “Mover in Tucson” has Nationwide Relocation ranking in the second page of results on all three search engines
To the Senate’s credit, the committee was able to avoid the often used misstep of asking the search engines to do more than could be expected. In the past, Washington has shown a general ignorance regarding how search engines work, and often ask for ridiculous results regarding control issues. Instead, the report states that work must be done to conclude the best course of action. It also does not single out a particular search engine for what is most obviously a problem across the industry.
The letter, signed by committee chair Senator John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), simply asks the search engines to look into the issue as thoroughly as possible:
Because I know that your company devotes significant time and resources to improving the quality of your users’ searches, I am sharing the results of my Committee’s investigation with you and asking you to review them.
Internet search is a powerful tool for consumers. It helps them learn more about products and services they are interested in purchasing, and it helps them find the best price and value when they decide to buy.
Unfortunately, the Committee’s investigation shows that a number of moving companies are using Internet-based commerce to take advantage of consumers.
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