Google behaviour may lead to lawsuit

2012-01-17 07:10

Cape Town - Mocality is keeping its legal options open after catching internet giant Google trying to steal its customers and undermine its directory business in Kenya.

Mocality, a business directory based in SA that operates in Kenya, discovered that their customers were contacted by call centre staff trying to sell them competing products and claiming co-operation with Mocality.

"At the start of December we analysed our server logs to look for a common pattern for the businesses that had contacted us with these confused calls. We found a single IP/User-Agent combination that had accessed all these businesses," wrote Mocality general manager Stefan Magdalinski.

Google apologised to Mocality for the actions.

"We were mortified to learn that a team of people working on a Google project improperly used Mocality’s data and misrepresented our relationship with Mocality to encourage customers to create new websites," said Nelson Mattos, Google vice president for product and engineering, Europe and emerging markets.


The internet giant with the unofficial slogan of "Don't be evil" had apparently been caught trying to undermine Mocality's business in Kenya.

Magdalinski would not commit himself on taking legal action, but said that he had had discussions with Google about the matter.

"I have had a couple of calls from Joe Mucheru during which he apologised. I'm looking forward to the outcome of their investigations."

In the Mocality investigation that included a sting operation, an agent named Douglas identifying himself as a Google Kenya employee, called Mocality staff posing as customers.

There were several calls from similar agents allegedly using the Mocality database to deceive customers, Magdalinski said.

"On all calls, the same script is followed - A Google Kenya employee calls a Mocality business and tries to deceive them into signing up for their competing product, by claiming that we are working together."

Mocality also traced the IP address of requests on its database and found that they all lead to Google India in January 2012.

"Since October, Google's GKBO appears to have been systematically accessing Mocality's database and attempting to sell their competing product to our business owners.

"They have been telling untruths about their relationship with us, and about our business practices, in order to do so. As of January 11th, nearly 30% of our database has apparently been contacted.

"Furthermore, they now seem to have outsourced this operation from Kenya to India," Magdalinski added.

Google has said it will conduct a thorough investigation into the practice.

"We're still investigating exactly how this happened, and as soon as we have all the facts, we'll be taking the appropriate action with the people involved," Mattos said.

- Follow Duncan on Twitter