Getting the Food Wars Started

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As smart as humans are known to be, they do carry a tendency of having tunnel vision at times. This has been proven factual time and time again, some instances even triggering irreversible damage for the masses. Now, when you come up against such a volatile reality, you can’t get away with not issuing a fitting response. Hence, the world eventually decided to bring dedicated regulatory bodies into its fold. It will prove to be a masterstroke, as all of a sudden, everyone was much more accountable about their actions than ever before. However, we can’t just overlook the challenges that also appeared on the scene here. For instance, with creations like technology taking over the landscape, the regulatory industry would end up in a spot where it no longer had the required authority, thus resulting in major disruption throughout the spectrum. Fortunately, though, as they get more and more tech savvy, the recent past has seemingly swung the tide back in regulators’ favor. It is backed up well by all the cases that talk to increased scrutiny on the Big Tech companies. In fact, another case has now joined the pack.

A Florida restaurant chain owner has officially filed a lawsuit against Google for directing users to unauthorized Google-branded food ordering webpages. According to the complaint, the search-giant uses “bait-and-switch” tactics by placing a highly-apparent “Order Online” button at the top of restaurant’s profile panel. This is where the problem starts. The chain owner claims that once a user clicks on the said button, Google directs them to a website, where they are encouraged to order through third-party services such as Postmates, DoorDash, and UberEats etc instead of the restaurant in question. This simple tactic ends up costing restaurant owners 15% to 30% commission on every order.

The complaint dives into how Google “prominently features” restaurants’ names on its ordering pages with the alleged goal of “deliberately confusing consumers into entering and interacting with its websites.” If a customer places an order through this page using a third-party service, the restaurant gets charged a fee, and the lawsuit alleges Google gets “a cut-of-the-action.”

Introduced back in 2019, the “Order Online” button is said to be an optional feature, but its default status remains unclear, giving accuser the basis to seek class-action on the behalf of all the restaurants that may have lost orders because of it. Nevertheless, it will be a hard gig, as Google plans to defend itself vigorously.

“We provide tools for merchants to indicate whether they support online orders or prefer a specific provider, including their own ordering website. We do not receive any compensation for orders or integrations with this feature,” the company said in response to the lawsuit.

pic credits: Prostock-studio / Shutterstock

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