A Manchester company which masqueraded as Google to charge firms up to £250 a pop for a free business listing service has been wound up following an investigation by the Insolvency Service.
Movette, which was set up nearly four years ago, falsely represented itself as Google when selling its service to manage the online “Google My Business” listings of its customers. The scheme encourages firms to share information and images about themselves to boost listings in its Google’s Search and Maps tools.
The company charged a fee of between £199 and £249 for a 12-month contract and its financial records showed it received fees totalling £537,000.
The investigation revealed Movette had falsely stated that customers would lose their existing services from Google if payment was not made but had been the subject of numerous complaints to regulatory bodies such as Action Fraud and Trading Standards.
Following a winding up order in the High Court, Insolvency Service investigation supervisor Colin Cronin said: “Movette used deceptive methods to persuade customers to sign up for its service, including stating or implying that it represented or was connected to Google.
“The company then made it difficult for customers to extract themselves from rolling contracts and used debt collection methods which were coercive and intimidatory.”
The Insolvency Service is now urging any business which is invited to sign up for a Google My Business listing to make full enquiries into the service being offered before entering into any agreement.
Cronin added: “Google My Business is, in fact, a free service which allows businesses to enter and update information with the intention of marketing themselves to users of the search engine.”
The Insolvency Service noted that Movette had operated a “very similar business” to another company – Online Platform Management Consultants – which had shut in April 2015 after operating from the same Manchester address.
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