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?

3 Big data security analytics techniques

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. ®

Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction

More from The Register

next story
EU: Let's cost financial traders $400m a day, because EVIL BANKERS. Right?
Wait 'til this one hits your pension fund where it hurts
Lavabit loses contempt of court appeal over protecting Snowden, customers
Judges rule complaints about government power are too little, too late
Don't let no-hire pact suit witnesses call Steve Jobs a bullyboy, plead Apple and Google
'Irrelevant' character evidence should be excluded – lawyers
Record labels sue Pandora over vintage song royalties
Companies want payout on recordings made before 1972
EFF: Feds plan to put 52 MILLION FACES into recognition database
System would identify faces as part of biometrics collection
Edward Snowden on his Putin TV appearance: 'Why all the criticism?'
Denies Q&A cameo was meant to slam US, big-up Russia
Systems meltdown plunges US immigration courts into pen-and-paper stone age
Massive outage could last four weeks, sources claim
Ex-Tony Blair adviser is new top boss at UK spy-hive GCHQ
Robert Hannigan to replace Sir Iain Lobban in the autumn
Judge halts spread of zombie Nortel patents to Texas in Google trial
Epic Rockstar patent war to be waged in California
prev story

Whitepapers

Mobile application security study
Download this report to see the alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, as well as the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.