For businesses, the first place below the search box is some of the world's most desirable property. Search for "Nissan Repair" and the first entry is a link to Nissan's official site, paid for by Nissan itself. Do the same for "iPhone Repair", "Cracked Phone Display" or "Broken Pixel" and no such ad will appear. You only get the map layout and organic search results.
The reason is either the first blow of a proxy war over the right to repair, or the unintended result of a heavy-handed attempt to tackle fraud. One year after the change was implemented, however, the repair warehouse community is demanding answers ̵
The majority of users who use Google click on the first link that was shown to them, and that the site is available for rent, for a price. Unfortunately, this combination of trust and commerce means that top ranking on Google is an easy target for scammers. Tech support scams will point ignorant users to official websites that are looking for people to download malicious software.
31. August 2018, The Wall Street Journal published an exposure about these scams and how they work. The same day, Google's David Graff published a response describing how the company would deal with the problem. The director of Global Product Policy said Google had seen an "increase in deceptive ad experiences, coming from third-party tech support providers."
As a result, Google began restricting ads to the relevant categories, namely for technical support. The search giant updated its policies to reflect this, blocking ads related to "third-party consumer tech support." Below it is a non-exhaustive list of examples: "Technical support for troubleshooting, security, virus removal, Internet connection, online accounts (such as password reset or login support), or software installation."
In the months that followed, however, hardware repair companies found their ads blocked by Google. In May 2019, xiRepair owner Jonathan Strange wrote that despite being approved to use Apple trademarks in his ads, Google refused the placement. Strange believes Google may have started with just software keywords and is now targeting phrases like & # 39; phone repair. & # 39;
"Unfortunately, repairs make up 95 percent of our revenue," Penniment added, stating that removing important keywords would be prohibitive. The owner believes that the decomposition of the ads has a significant damage to his business, and revenue is down by a fifth compared to last year. Unless phones have become significantly more robust, or the advertising run will harm people. And this experience is not unique to Phone Ninja: Many others complain of falling revenue.
A potential consequence is that users with damaged hardware can only use official repair channels. It can cause people to receive insufficient support and force them to spend more on similar service. A CBC survey from 2018 found that Apple Store support had a record of overcharging for less work, or in one example, saying repair work would cost $ 1200. However, a third-party store found that the real thing was a loose wire and solved it for only $ 75 – saving the customer money and keeping a laptop out of the garbage.
The Repair Association, a group representing more than 60 technology and civil liberties agencies, including the EFF, polled shop owners. In a survey, with people self-reporting as owners of a workshop, a majority said they had been rejected for offering "third-party consumer tech support." In rejection emails shared with Engadget, Google does not provide any explanation, only that phrase and a link to the relevant part of the policy.
"There is no alternative to Google," writes one respondent, noting that they are struggling to find other places to advertise. Others regret the decline in business caused by the crash, while many others are still chasing a verification system that Google has promised.
"Over the coming months," wrote David Graff in his reply to WSJ's on August 31, "we will launch a confirmation program to ensure that only legitimate third-party technical support providers can use our platform to reach consumers. " Almost a year later, and no verification system has been made available, despite the accident of workshops looking to get their ads back on.
Google already has experience running a similar kind of verification program. Locksmiths and garage door companies in the US can only run ads on Google if applicable, showing compliance with the law and updated paperwork. Google says it takes two weeks to complete this process – so what's the problem with phone repair?
There may be no globally recognized repair industry bodies that can offer legitimate certification. Since the repair industry is largely made up of small, independent companies, there is little lobbying power or power to create a universal standard. Only some states, like California, offer registration. Google may not be able (or unwilling) to make an extra effort to create one for such a small business community. The fact that the company has not communicated about this since 31 August 2018 is frustrating for the companies that are struggling.
"The way it was done was dishonest," says Phone Ninja's Penniment, "especially when you think it's now 12 months since David Graff announced that a verification system would be rolled out over the coming months. & # 39; "At the time of publication, Google was unable to comment and was unable to make relevant executives, such as David Graff, available for interview.
At the same time, Google says it "creates products with humans and the planet in mind," and this week published new commitments on sustainable hardware. It promised that the first-party units would ship carbon-neutral by 2020, and that 100 percent of the units would include recycled materials by 2022. Google failed to mention ways it wants to make those same units more repairable. The hardware division is not bound to search, but they are still two parts of the same company.
Google is not the only one offering mixed messages. On Apple's environmental side, the company boasts that the products are "built to last as long as humanly possible." But Apple and other companies have tried to block attempts by individuals to repair their devices. Earlier this year, Motherboard uncovered records showing that Apple, Verizon and Lexmark were bankrolling a campaign to kill a New York repair right.
According to Justin Ashford of YouTube channel The Art of Repair Apple will not issue battery health warnings for third party repairs. iFixit later confirmed that third parties will not be able to replace a damaged iPhone battery, only those approved by Apple itself. It notes that this is equivalent to a control oil light that only a Ford dealer can reset, even if you change oil yourself. "
Convenience aside, if companies can gatekeep to repair their devices, or raise prices to an unsustainable level, the result will be more e-waste. More garbage that harms both the humans who have to deal with it and our planet as a whole.