Lawsuit accuses Google of stealing restaurant customers
Filed in Florida, it seeks class action status
A Florida restaurant group has filed a lawsuit against Google, alleging the tech giant diverted orders from restaurants. It seems to have to do with design and experience changes the company made in 2019 to encourage fast access to online ordering through third-party services. Per the filing, “Google determined it could make even more money from its position as the destination-of-choice for consumers looking up restaurants by directing the user into one of two new environments that it dreamed up.” The lawsuit is seeking class-action status.
Statements from Google representatives in online coverage of the suit call it a “mischaracterization” and state Google plans to “vigorously” defend itself.
Essentially, the lawsuit says that Google, by design, is directing customers away from restaurants. Instead, customers are encouraged, by design, to transact with a third-party provider. And in some cases it’s a third-party provider that the restaurant hasn’t necessarily signed on to deal with.
While convenient for diners, these online listings can be confusing for businesses not totally tapped into the whims of big tech. Google’s online help forums are full of business owners looking for advice on how to change which third party delivery services appear on the platform. (The answer: contact the delivery providers, not Google.)
“If you Google my restaurant, because of Google and third-party deals, despite all the effort I put into marketing, I still get taxed a lead generation fee by default,” one of my restaurateur friends lamented when I asked about it. “The right thing to do is to not have DoorDash buttons at the top — let the restaurants funnel to DoorDash if they want,” they added.
In a statement to Ars Technica about the lawsuit, a Google rep said, “We provide tools for merchants to indicate whether they support online orders or prefer a specific provider, including their own ordering website. We do not receive any compensation for orders or integrations with this feature.”
It’s also important to note that third-party providers also integrate direct ordering features with Google — restaurants do have options. DoorDash’s Storefront product, for example, allows restaurants to accept direct orders via Google, and they aren’t charged commission fees.