Feeds

UK.gov to Google: Kill impostor taxmen ADs hogging top spot in YOUR search results

But how much profit do these copycat sites make for the ad giant?

Mobile application security vulnerability report

Google is to be told by the UK government to weaken the threats posed by copycat websites that offer tax return services to unsuspecting Brits, presumably by getting the ad giant to push the links off its first page of search results.

Tory backbencher David Davis asked the Treasury, in a parliamentary question, if it would be demanding to know how much money Google - which has been criticised by some quarters for using legitimate means to reduce its UK tax bill - makes from such sites. He said:

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he will meet Google to discuss the profits that company makes from copycat websites which charge for the tax return service and appear above government department and agency websites in search results; and if he will highlight to them the importance of taking steps to ensure that websites with the .gov.uk domain are used solely for these services.

When The Register typed the term "tax returns" into Google.co.uk's search engine, we discovered that the top, sponsored (read: paid) result was one entirely independent of the official HMRC office. Instead, we were presented with a service called Tax Return Gateway, which states on its site that it is a private company registered with HMRC as tax agents.

Private company muscles Blighty's TAXMAN out of the top spot

The next advertised link is one for self assessments through the HMRC website. But it is sandwiched between another outfit that claims to be "1st contact tax return specialists".

Exchequer Secretary David Gauke told Davis that action would be taken to protect taxpayers from sites that are considered to be copycats of the real thing.

The minister said:

HMRC takes customer confidence in their online services very seriously. Ministers have asked a cross-government group, which HMRC is part of, to work with Google to try and mitigate the risks posed by copycat websites to our customers.

Gauke did not respond to questioning about Google's profit, however.

El Reg asked the Treasury to comment on this story, but it hadn't got back to us at time of writing.

A Google spokeswoman told us:

We have a strict set of policies which govern what types of ads appear on Google. If we learn that an advertiser is breaching those policies, we move swiftly to take action. We are working closely with Government Digital Services [the Cabinet Office team behind the rebranding of Directgov] to ensure that ads are not misleading and offer real value.

The Reg notes that Google has a "Sale of Free items and official services" policy in place that advertisers are expected to comply with. Among other things, the site has to clearly state whether it is affiliated or not with the official source - in this instance the HMRC.

The website advertised on Google's results page should also disclose that the government offer similar services for free. And all of the info has to be clearly stated by the site owner above the fold on the main landing page.

It's understood that Google kills ads that fail to meet its criteria.

Google users can also gripe to Mountain View about ads that they believe were misleading. ®

Mobile application security vulnerability report

More from The Register

next story
UK government officially adopts Open Document Format
Microsoft insurgency fails, earns snarky remark from UK digital services head
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
HP, Microsoft prove it again: Big Business doesn't create jobs
SMEs get lip service - what they need is dinner at the Club
ITC: Seagate and LSI can infringe Realtek patents because Realtek isn't in the US
Land of the (get off scot) free, when it's a foreign owner
MPs wave through Blighty's 'EMERGENCY' surveillance laws
Only 49 politcos voted against DRIP bill
Help yourself to anyone's photos FOR FREE, suggests UK.gov
Copyright law reforms will keep m'learned friends busy
EU's top data cops to meet Google, Microsoft et al over 'right to be forgotten'
Plan to hammer out 'coherent' guidelines. Good luck chaps!
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.