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Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 1
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

Hi,

I believe that @MosheTLV may be best placed to pick up about this issue, but of course this post is open to all to assist with. Thank you in advance.

A clear-cut violation of Adwords and Google Shopping policies has come to my attention. It involves showing users product pricing within Ads and Google Shopping that does not match what is then displayed to the user on the landing page.

The site / advertiser in question is www.visiondirect.co.uk.

Google has clear policies in place to ensure that Google users are shown the same product price in Ads and on Google Shopping that they can then purchase the product for.

Below is a comprehensive report on the violations in both Google Adwords and Google Shopping.

----------

Adwords Policy Violation

The Google Adwords Advertisers Claims policy is located here:
https://support.google.com/adwordspolicy/answer/1331529?hl=en-GB&ref_topic=1310871

It states (highlights my own):
---
Your AdWords ads should be truthful, accurate and up to date every time they're shown to users.

Advertiser claims include but are not limited to: competitive claims, superlatives, offers, discounts and pricing. This policy also covers unverified offers and claims that are either scientifically impossible, or otherwise misleading to users.

All advertised products, prices, offers and discounts must be available on your site, at most two clicks away from your landing page, or through a basic search on your site.
---

Proof of Adwords Policy Violation

On Google.co.uk when you conduct searches for the following terms with cookies disabled in your browser the price advertized in the ad copy does not match the price that is displayed on the landing page when the user clicks on the ad, and the price in the ad copy is not available for that product anywhere on the site.

Examples:

SERP Displaying Ad - Product Price in Ad Copy - Product Price Given To User on Site

acuvue moist - £14.98 - £15.98
dailies aquacomfort plus - £12.48 - £12.98
1 day trueye - £19.48 - £19.98
air optix aqua - £11.48 - £11.98
focus dailies toric - £15.48 - £16.98
1 day acuvue moist for astigmatism - £20.98 - £22.48
freshlook 1 day - £9.98 - £10.98

NB. I will put links to screenshots for all of these examples in my next post (previously the links to the image site I use have been blocked and need releasing by admins - hence why not posting them immediately).

As you can see, some Google users are only able to buy some products at over 10% higher than the price displayed in the ad copy!

This is only a sample of text ads, there could be up to hundreds all misleading some Google users.

As it states in the policy above "Your AdWords ads should be truthful, accurate and up to date every time they're shown to users". Some Google users are being misled about the product price that they can actually purchase the product for, simply because they have chosen not to accept cookies in their browser, these ads represent multiple clear violations of Google Policy.

Should anyone believe that cookies should be enabled, Google is very clear on the matter in its Privacy Policy (https://www.google.co.uk/intl/en/policies/privacy/) that users who choose to block cookies are welcome on Google.co.uk (it states "You may also set your browser to block all cookies, including cookies associated with our services or to indicate when a cookie is being set by us.").

Penalty for Violating the Advertisers Claims Policy

The policy states:
---
What happens if you violate this policy

  • Ad disapproval: Ads that don't follow this policy may get disapproved. A disapproved ad won't be able to run until the policy violation is fixed and the ad is approved.
  • Domain disabling: We may suspend websites that violate this policy, meaning that the website can no longer be advertised until the problem is fixed.
  • Account suspension: An account may get suspended if you have several violations or a serious violation. If this happens, all ads in the suspended account will stop running and we may no longer accept advertising from you. Any related accounts may also get permanently suspended and your new accounts may get automatically suspended at setup. Learn more about suspended accounts.

---

Due to the violation of the policy, every text ad with an incorrect price (not limited to the examples above) must be disapproved.

However, as this owner of this website has in the recent past been found guilty of a major Google Adwords policy (double serving) and had action taken against it once it was brought to Google's attention, and then has almost immediately afterwards launched many text ads that again infringe Google policies, it is clear that the owner of this website is hell bent on gaming the Google Adwords system, and should be suspended for multiple policy violations.

----------

Google Shopping Policy Violation

Adverts on Google Shopping placed by www.visiondirect.com are also in violation of the relevant policies.

The Google Shopping policy Pricing and Payments is located here: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/2704164

It states (highlights my own)
---
Google Shopping requires merchants to provide users with clear and conspicuous pricing information.

Requirements:

  • The price on the landing page must match the price that you submitted to Google in your product data.
  • ...
  • Items with variable prices, such as in auctions, should not be submitted. All products must be sold at fixed prices.

---

The Google Shopping policy Landing Page Content is located here: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/2700318

It states (highlights my own):
---
Google Shopping requires that after clicking a product listing, a user should end up on a landing page that works properly and displays a product offer that is essentially identical to the product listing that you submitted to Google in your product data, regardless of the user’s device, browser, location, cookies, your ad targeting choices or any other consideration....

Requirements:

  • ...
  • The price (including tax and delivery if included on the landing page) and currency must match. If you submit the ‘sale price’ attribute, both price and sale price must be displayed on your landing page while the sale price is active, and match with the information submitted in your product data.
  • ...

---

Proof of Google Shopping Policy Violation

As before, on Google.co.uk when you conduct searches for the following terms with cookies disabled in your browser the price advertized in the Google Shopping results does not match the price that is displayed on the landing page when the user clicks on the ad, and the price in the Google Shopping result is not available for that product anywhere on the site.

SERP Displaying Google Shopping Result - Product Price in Google Shopping Result - Product Price Given To User on Site

acuvue moist vision direct - £14.98 - £15.98
dailies aqua comfort plus - £12.48 - £12.98
1 day trueye - £19.48 - £19.98
air optix aqua - £11.48 - £11.98
focus dailies torics - £15.48 - £16.98
acuvue for astigmatism - £20.98 - £22.48
freshlook 1 day - £9.98 - £10.98

NB. I will put links to screenshots for all of these examples in my next post (previously the links to the image site I use have been block and need releasing by admins - hence why not posting them immediately).

As before, the price displayed on the landing page does not match that which is shown in Google Shopping. It is discriminatory pricing based on a user's security settings. As also highlighted in the Pricing and Payment policy above, it could be argued that as well as not matching the price on the Google Shopping result for a certain group of users, the pricing mechanic that www.visiondirect.co.uk means that items are at sold at variable prices when accessed through Google Shopping (appreciating that this is not an auction - this part of the policy could be open to interpretation).

Furthermore (and a final nail in the coffin) the false pricing also 100% contravenes the Landing Page Policy's requirement for the price to match regardless of cookies.

Penalty for Violating the Google Shopping policies

The Google Shopping policies state:
---
What happens if I violate this policy?

Google aims to provide the best user experience and data quality in Google Shopping, and therefore enforces clear actions against violations both on product listings and websites.

Product listing disapproval

Product listings or websites that don't comply with this policy may be disapproved. When a product listing is disapproved, it won't be able to run until the policy violation is fixed and the data is approved.

Account suspension

In severe cases, an account may be suspended. If this happens, all product listings in the suspended account will stop being shown, and we may no longer accept data from you. Any related accounts may also be permanently suspended. In really severe cases, merchants may also be suspended automatically if they attempt to open any new accounts.
---

Due to the violation of the policy, every text Google Shopping product with an incorrect price (not limited to the examples above) must be immediately disapproved.

As I stated above in the case of the text ad manipulations, as this owner of this website has in the recent past been found guilty of a major Google Adwords policy (double serving) and had action taken against it once it was brought to Google's attention, and then has almost immediately afterwards launched this multitude of Google Shopping results that violate Google policies, it is clear that the owner of this website is hell bent on gaming the Google Shopping system, and should be suspended for multiple policy violations.

-----------

Final Word

As I have made clear in the sections around the penalties for these violations, I feel that account suspension for this advertiser would be the most appropriate response to this case.

Google has a duty to its shareholders to provide the best possible experience for its users, and a fair and competitive environment for it's advertisers.

With this advertiser Google users are being repeatedly abused. Firstly, in the double serving case alluded to above (see here: https://www.en.adwords-community.com/t5/Ad-Approval-Policy/Clear-Cut-Double-Serving-Violation/td-p/3... users were being tricked into thinking that the two websites (www.visiondirect.co.uk and www.getlenses.co.uk) were in competition. Now in this case, only 10 days after Google clamped down on the double serving activity, users are being tricked with pricing strategies that discriminate against users with higher privacy settings on their devices in further clear contraventions of multiple policies.

With regards to the maintenance of a fair and competitive advertizing marketplace for advertisers, this company is persistently trying to manipulate the market to its advantage. First it tries to dominate the SERP with large-scale blatant double serving. Once that is shut down, they immediately try to manipulate CTRs by showing users discounted pricing that is not applied consistently.

If an advertiser is determined to game Google's advertizing systems then extremely firm action must be taken in order to prevent precedents being set. In my view, it is unbelievable that this company (and it's websites: www.visiondirect.co.uk, www.getlenses.co.uk, www.lensbase.com amongst other variants) continues to be allowed to advertize on Google advertising platforms. Google simply must take a firmer line with companies that are obviously trying to manipulate Google's systems in the face of such clear-cut evidence of multiple violations occuring on multiple occasions within a short period of time.

I look forward to the response of the forum and Google.

Alan

3 Expert replyverified_user

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 2
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭

Here are the screenshots.

All screenshots taken today (September 8th 2014) from Google.co.uk and then following landing page on www.visiondirect.co.uk.

Examples of Adwords Text Ads Policy Violations:

Key:
SERP Displaying Ad - Product Price in Ad Copy - Product Price Given To User on Site
Link to screenshot of text ad on SERP
Link to screenshot of landing page reached when text ad clicked

acuvue moist - £14.98 - £15.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/5b123d5180731a12ab27d1426290073a.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/12a5c19abd48cca7e1bc76cfd71f03d6.jpg

dailies aquacomfort plus - £12.48 - £12.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/476a11503383a02f0a2e123f7d0d0d61.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/4f334c64cf9a8138fff16467251f2118.jpg

1 day trueye - £19.48 - £19.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/64b451b9830c1882d53160eb575c6f9e.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/6c8b27a3b137faeeaeee9a5df21e34e8.jpg

air optix aqua - £11.48 - £11.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/a0c423a1f105736650b488f8efc92691.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/87b394cc8686337ec91b7659d1c3cb51.jpg

focus dailies toric - £15.48 - £16.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/089ac61529d2b93edd514309d9ae0aaa.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/453f8d5e0658cad51e3d08bc64400aea.jpg

1 day acuvue moist for astigmatism - £20.98 - £22.48
https://www.anonimg.com/img/9ef830d5f0246e978cf7a777c93059f6.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/1b6f616e1f5d2c0cbf5038c9326860bb.jpg

freshlook 1 day - £9.98 - £10.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/ff76badbd31b26d80f27427d61ac74df.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/ad0dbda36ecfb7293901ed01e1625abc.jpg


Examples of Google Shopping Policy Violation

Key:
SERP Displaying Google Shopping Result - Product Price in Google Shopping Result - Product Price Given To User on Site
Link to screenshot of Shopping Ad on SERP
Link to screenshot of landing page reached when Shopping Ad clicked

acuvue moist vision direct - £14.98 - £15.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/e60c7d54abd0210f453d903e2ce56cc9.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/240ad02aa7db0a8e6f9ebeb3e16d79d9.jpg

dailies aqua comfort plus - £12.48 - £12.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/5d0871717aae4c1dca1dc9cbaf37b8ef.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/86e1aa85f634e13f43a07392d4dfcdda.jpg

1 day trueye - £19.48 - £19.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/219fd1979202f61ee538155b8a3b630b.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/35621b2b3ec415a4e56562f3d74fc707.jpg

air optix aqua - £11.48 - £11.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/fd82445a72705d13925f4e1eda8294ce.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/1aacf351c7eed466e875dd40e8e764d2.jpg

focus dailies torics - £15.48 - £16.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/abec015d0689c0ca1f6420e80f211db4.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/5fc96cdb502863ac9f6f79ef76f661a3.jpg

acuvue for astigmatism - £20.98 - £22.48
https://www.anonimg.com/img/2c878287e552daf1e70266216b71c28d.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/eb4d9b053709d23582aaeac2ff0e67b0.jpg

freshlook 1 day - £9.98 - £10.98
https://www.anonimg.com/img/488903106c7850398da6ebb8d8fc2b14.jpg
https://www.anonimg.com/img/60c1d74e032ff880db08a8f59e249cca.jpg

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 3
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
@RachelM - I have just posted links to the screenshots proving the violations, but I believe they have been taken out by the spam filter. Please could you release them. Thank you.

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Top Contributor
# 4
Top Contributor

Hello again Alan;

Google has set a process to investigate complaints about double serving violations.

We, together with Google, worked on the other case you opened, as a case study,  to show (for other users searching similar issues of double serving on google.com) that the  process works!

 

Furthermore; Investigating "double serving" requires tools that are only available through Adwords customer support.

 

Thus; further/ future  complaints about  "double serving"  should be submitted  to Google (to investigate) through the channel Google has set.

 

I understand that this is not (quite) the answer you would like to hear; however, we must follow the process  which Google requires.

 

https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/176378?hl=en

-Moshe

 

@KathleenG 

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
Did you find any helpful responses or answers to your query? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer’

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Community Manager
# 5
Community Manager

Hi All,

 

Thanks for bringing this to my attention @MosheTLV and you are correct in saying that Alan needs to take this issue directly to AdWords support. 

 

@Alan F - neither myself or Moshe have the tools to perform a double serving investigation. I would suggest that you either use the form to the Policy team, or if you had corresponded with a member of the AdWords team about this from your past investigation, to reply directly to the correspondence from him/her.

 

If you have any questions around this, please do let me know.

 

Kathleen

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 6
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Hi @MosheTLV,

Sorry, but I'm confused by your post.

The issues raise in this thread have nothing to do with double serving. Perhaps I confused the issue by referring to the double serving case in the post, but that was only to showcase the continued cheating of the system that this advertiser is doing. I would be grateful if you could re-read this post.

The policies being broken here are related to misleading Google users by using product pricing in adverts and on Google Shopping that users are not then given when they click through to game the system. These are examples of totally separate (from double serving), but nevertheless very serious, policy violations. Please could you reconsider on this basis whether you will report these violations and let me know.

I have my reasons to be dubious of the non-public way of reporting violations. I can go into further detail on this if you would like, but will hold back for now.

Google is now aware of this issue, by your inclusion of @KathleenG, and I believe that it is in Google's best interest to pick up on the issues raised in this thread. After all, many Google users are being mislead by this advertiser across both Adwords and Shopping at this very minute and Google must be seen to stop this once it has knowledge of it....

Thanks in advance for your help.

Alan

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 7
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
@KathleenG - please could you re-read this thread too. It is not about double serving.

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

[ Edited ]
Top Contributor
# 8
Top Contributor


(a) google-shopping is an ad-auction that shows product-listing-ads.

(b) other adwords ad-types may be shown
simultaneously with any product-listing-ad.

(c) generally, a product-listing-ads submitted price and landing-page price
must match exactly and must include vat where applicable; however, only
google and the merchant typically have access to the submitted price,
shipping information, and many other related details, within both the
merchant-center and adwords accounts required for an investigation.

(d) other adwords ad-types may display prices --
for example, a price might be added to a text-ad
that has nothing to do with a google-shopping feed.

the examples posted do not seem to be product-listing-ads;
but rather, other adwords ad-types with price information.

(e) regardless (of any details posted in the forums) as was already indicated,
the best likely course is to submit the official policy form or reply directly
to the member of the policy-team already handling the investigation, to
ensure that the details and any followup can be properly addressed by
an established process and the most appropriate group of people.

google tends not to comment publicly on any individual policy investigation.

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Top Contributor
# 9
Top Contributor

Alan; I might have been misunderstood;
The "double serving" case was indeed a case study, but the process applies in general, regardless of the policy section in violation.

Moshe, AdWords Top Contributor , Twitter | Linkedin | Community Profile | Ad-Globe
Did you find any helpful responses or answers to your query? If yes, please mark it as the ‘Best Answer’

Re: Advertized Price - Multiple Policy Violations

Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
# 10
Visitor ✭ ✭ ✭
Hi @MosheTLV,

Thanks for your reply.

Whilst I'm happy to have been able to provide a case study on double serving (in my other thread) and it is good to see Google take action, the only way to get Google to take action on it was to make the information public. Here is further information on why I am reluctant to just go through Adwords support...

As referenced in the double serving thread, a contact of mine went through over 3 months (!) of email correspondence with multiple people at Google (Adwords Support department) about the double serving issue only to be told that Google had taken the 'appropriate action', which in reality was nothing at all!

Furthermore, I sourced the email addresses of two very senior executives at Google UK (who shall remain nameless at this point) to raise the issue with, but was completely ignored by both of them.

At this point I think you could well agree that this could have had all the makings of a public interest story, as the evidence was mounting that Google wanted to let double serving activity continue to protect revenues, by (a) refusing to stop the activity when adequately reported to Adwords Support, and (b) senior executives ignoring further reports. As I made the point in my previous thread on double serving, Google allowing the double serving practice to continue would be seen as (a) anti-competitive and (b) potentially a price fixing mechanic.

However, I wanted to give Google as much of an opportunity to solve the double serving as possible, so I gave it once last chance and went down the public forum route, which finally got Google to pay attention and resolve the issue.

What should have been dealt with by a simple report to Adwords Support, was only dealt with after 3 months of correspondence (effectively ignored), emails to two senior executives (actually ignored), and finally a public and irrefutable evidence base being presented on this forum (unable to be ignored).

Hopefully this background explains why I am highly dubious of reporting this new (non-double serving) violation to Google through non-public channels.

I know you are a volunteer on this forum, and I greatly appreciate your help, and I'm sorry that Google's prior lack of action meant that you needed to get involved in either the double serving or this latest violation complaint. Please could you still let me know if you are not not prepared to report these latest violations after reading the above.

Thank you again.

Alan

@KathleenG - if you can talk to Google about presenting me with an alternative solution (not Adwords Support) rather than the public forum to discuss issues then feel free to email me on the address registered to my account.

@Celebird - thank you for your contribution. In terms of the Google Shopping / PLAs issue, the prices are visible in the Shopping results / PLAs and do not match the price on the landing page when cookies are disabled. Perhaps you looked at the images showing the text ads rather than the Google Shopping results (the latter were in the second half of examples).

Additionally on the point of the price submitted in the feed (which you point out we do not have access to), it is impossible for the advertiser to submit both a price for when cookies are enabled and another for when they are disabled (there are only two price fields, one for normal price and one for sale price, and only one can be active at anyone time and the one that is active cannot be decided by the presence of cookies - it is simply a function of whether a sale is active at that point in time). Hence, as only one price is active from the feed, and there are two potential prices on the landing page, they are discriminating based on a users cookie-preference, which is explicitly a policy violation under the Google Shopping Landing Page Content policy: https://support.google.com/merchants/answer/2700318