Menendez urges Google to protect consumers from counterfeiters

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) called on Google CEO Sundar Pichai in written correspondence last week to protect consumers from being cheated by fraudulent foreign counterfeiters that are buying the search engine’s online advertising products to market fake, inferior knock-offs.

"According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), nearly half a trillion dollars of global imports are counterfeited or pirated. Sen. Menendez wrote in a letter to Mr. Pichai, “There is a growing online component to this piracy: websites often use stolen images from legitimate businesses to advertise their products and trick consumers, but their final products rarely live up to consumers’ expectations. Beyond disappointing consumers, counterfeit products can endanger lives with auto parts that fail or medicine that makes people ill.”

Sen. Menendez pointed to the use of AdWords, a Google product used by counterfeiters to boost placement of their ads above other search results, writing: “Fraudulent websites use this prominent placement as part of their strategy to trick consumers and portray their products as authentic. With this advertising product, Google may be lending credence to counterfeiting websites and facilitating the defrauding of consumers.”

Sen. Menendez has been working with the American Bridal and Prom Industry Association in its ongoing effort to combat online promotion of counterfeit goods by foreign factories to unwitting American consumers.

“Responding to the proliferation of counterfeiting websites requires a coordinated response between government and business,” the letter continued. “Companies such as Google must be a part of the solution, and the company has a responsibility to protect the consumers who use your search engine.”

Sen. Menendez called on Google’s CEO to provide specific information on the screening process it employs to verify that AdWords customers are legitimate businesses and not fraudulent websites.

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