Google is ‘killing my industry’
AUSTRALIAN businesses that provide third-party repairs for Apple products are accusing Google of undermining them by teaming up with the iPhone maker to block paid advertising for such services on its search engine.
When you search most things on Google, the top result (or three or four) will be a link that is marked as an ad because it has been paid to appear at the top of the page. Around the middle of December, searches with terms like "iPhone repair, "Apple repair" and "Mac repair" stopped supporting the ads.
It comes after the company announced in August that it would heavily restrict all advertising on its platform by third-party technical support and repair providers globally, in a bid to combat the rise of "harmful" and fraudulent companies.
Sam Walker is the CEO and co-founder of Fix2U and says many in the third-party repair industry that rely on paid Google Search advertising are in "panic mode." He says honest companies are being punished and shut off from potential customers due to the wholesale ban.
Google said it would roll out a "verification program" for legitimate companies to become approved but has remained tight lipped on that front.
Despite multiple attempts to clarify with Google, Mr Walker has been left frustrated from being stonewalled.
"We originally expected it was related to the tech support restrictions they did announce back in August but when we spoke to frontline support they weren't able to provide any information about why the key words were blocked," he told news.com.au. "No one is able to get a straight answer."
Google declined to answer any inquiries on the topic put to it by news.com.au, instead pointing to its August announcement.
But Mr Walker thinks there is more to it than simply a stated desire to clean up the industry. "That's an honourable and justifiable thing to do but it does seem strange to me that they put these restrictions in place," he said. "My business has been verified with Google for years."
"I know Apple tried to do this previously."
While third-party repairers, including his company, still show up in the organic search results, Mr Walker believes it could be another tactic used by the tech giants to keep control of the lucrative repair industry - something Apple is notorious for doing.
Mr Walker has submitted a complaint to the ACCC over the issue and started a petition on change.org to lobby Google to get some clarity.
"Dear Google, your knee jerk reaction is killing my industry," the petition title reads.
"Almost the entire industry relies very heavily on paid advertising," Mr Walker said.
"When businesses are talking about closing down, and I don't think that's overblown."