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Google Gets Consumer Service Ultimatum From German Consumer Groups 351

Posted by samzenpus
from the or-else dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google received an ultimatum Thursday from German consumer organizations that want it to start answering questions from its users via email. The Federation of German Consumer Organizations (VZBV) has asked Google to sign an undertaking that it will provide customer service by responding individually to users questions sent by email, said Carola Elbrecht, VZBV's project manager for consumer rights in the digital world at the VZBV. Signing such a document would expose Google to fines if it breached the undertaking. On the other hand, said Elbrecht, 'If Google does not sign it, we're going to court.'"
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Google Gets Consumer Service Ultimatum From German Consumer Groups

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  • You know... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MrDoh! (71235) on Friday April 19, 2013 @03:09AM (#43490343) Homepage Journal
    That doesn't sound entirely unreasonable. If it pushes Google to have a bit more of a responsive front end to their customers, then... I'm ok with that. Though I'd also see Google's side of it if they insisted on a GMail/G+ account to prove they are a valid customer and not MS spam bots!
    • Funny thing is Google do respond by email when it is needed. I reported a problem with the navigation product and an illegal right turn it directed me to do.
      After a while i got an email saying i was right and it was fixed.

      I think Google provides some of the best customer service in the world, after all i can ask them anything and they usually give me pages and pages of answers, heck they answer questions on subjects totally unrelated to google.

      You can't fix stupid though no matter how many emails you send.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by nospam007 (722110) *

      "That doesn't sound entirely unreasonable."

      If the German Consumer Organization would take a bit of their own medicine and answer their fucking emails as well.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think it does sound unreasonable.

      At the moment they respond to most e-mails, but they have flexibility about it. They can choose.

      If they sign it, they are legally obliged to respond. E-mail bombing? Every random idiotic thing? They have a legal obligation to reply individually.

      This is precisely the type of government overreach that should NOT happen.

    • From my experience, Google has quite good customer support. But only for their customers!

      Customers, remember? That are those people that pay someone for goods or service....
      And that service basically is the main selling point for their pro-grade services.

      For all others, they offer at least user to user help forums.

    • by Ash Vince (602485) *

      That doesn't sound entirely unreasonable.
      If it pushes Google to have a bit more of a responsive front end to their customers, then... I'm ok with that.

      Though I'd also see Google's side of it if they insisted on a GMail/G+ account to prove they are a valid customer and not MS spam bots!

      The full article doesn't talk about "customers", it talks about "users". Why the hell should Google have to answer an email from some retard too stupid to use their search engine and needs "support".

      I have no problem with Google being forced into actually providing contact details to people or companies who actually pay them money directly (ie: customers), but I am not so sure that is what is being suggested here. If the only business relationship I have with Google is that I use a free service they provide

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 19, 2013 @03:21AM (#43490391)
    Quite right - I'm very reluctant to make more use of Google's services than I do because I know that it is practically impossible to get a response from the company if anything goes wrong. They may assume that their market share is big enough without being seen as a responsive company, but I think that in the long run they are wrong to behave this way.
    • Quite right - I'm very reluctant to make more use of Google's services than I do because I know that it is practically impossible to get a response from the company if anything goes wrong.

      Disclosure: I'm a volunteer, non-paid active user in a Google user support forum, therefore slightly biased pro-google.

      But that's the exact reason why even I advise AGAINST using the free Google services for business or anything important. That's the reason why there are GoogleApps, targetting professional users.

      • by Yebyen (59663)

        And as a user of paid pro Google Apps I can tell you, they are impossible to get to respond on the phone or by e-mail! Especially in an outage.

        I understand. "All of your users' are without service. The power is out. They're calling now." There is literally nothing you can do for me after you pick up the phone. Your time is much better spent getting the service back up for everyone affected.

        But when something goes wrong with a public-facing Google Docs form and it's not fixing itself, or what else you

  • I don't get it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tsotha (720379) on Friday April 19, 2013 @03:29AM (#43490421)

    They're demanding a level of service for something they're getting for free? Really?

    • Re:I don't get it (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Lundse (1036754) on Friday April 19, 2013 @03:38AM (#43490463)

      It is not free. You are paying with your privacy and helping them build one of the largest and most interesting databases in the world. If they believe they have any right to do anything with any of your data, this must stem from a claim that there is some sort of contract. If the end user has no way to contact Google (beyond getting a formulaic donotreply-email), he or she has no way to force Google to uphold their end. Without such measures, the contact cannot be binding, and without any attempt to allow the user such measures, Google could even be acting in bad faith.

    • Just because I can use many services from Google without paying money doesn't mean that they are free.

      Google is a for profit company, of course they gain something by offering their services.

  • by seebs (15766) on Friday April 19, 2013 @04:37AM (#43490687) Homepage

    For quite a long time, Google Groups would let you add people to a group, then set the group to private, making it impossible to view the group or file a complaint, but Google ignored email complaints, claiming they had a web form. They still have absolutely no mechanism for reporting spam sent by their customers who aren't using a gmail address to send the spam. And they just don't care.

    They have either given up entirely on "don't be evil", or not thought through the implications of being extremely large and very careless.

    • Re:I like this idea. (Score:4, Informative)

      by Flavio (12072) on Friday April 19, 2013 @05:18AM (#43490849)

      Google never had customer service for non-paying users. And they've been a privacy nightmare for as long as I remember. Do you think a company that hires so many PhDs hasn't thought through the implications of their decisions? The "don't be evil" ship sailed a long time ago.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Rich0 (548339)

        Do you think a company that hires so many PhDs hasn't thought through the implications of their decisions?

        I guess I missed the common sense class that apparently everybody else had to take when I was in grad school. A PhD does not guarantee that somebody thinks through the consequences of their decisions. In fact, most PhD research requires incredibly myopic thinking.

      • by mjwalshe (1680392)
        Just because you have PhD doesn't mean you are properly socialized or understand politics Google has been going "hey fuck you judge" for a long time now and eventually the wheels will come off the bus.
  • I don't live in Germany but if it is at all like the US you won't get anything except a form email if you email your representative or Senator.

    • I don't live in Germany

      In Germany, you get a personal email from Oberhauptstabswebelausbilder Hakan Schulz, saying:

      "Du kommst hier nicht rein!"

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Friday April 19, 2013 @05:41AM (#43490929)
    Its possible that competitors will create tens of thousands of queries just to ensure that Google cannot meat the deadlines. A bit like when Microsoft was the top submitter of takedown notices to google but didn't remove the same content from bing [wired.com].
  • Works for RHEL, Easyjet...

    "Want a personalised answer to your email; sure, that's $50, or just upgrade to our 'business' option for only $25 per user, per year".

    I suppose the counter-arguement could go that google's services are not really "free" for their consumers, since they are already 'paying' by viewing ads and supplying their personal data.

  • by henni16 (586412) on Friday April 19, 2013 @12:02PM (#43494399)

    If you provide a webservice - especially a commercial one - you are required to prominently display valid identity and contact information, including ways that provide quick and immediate ways to communicate with you (the laws especially mentions/requires "electronic post" ).

    The background of that German law isn't really about forcing companies to provide customer service (besides making it clear who your business partner is - you have to be able to get hold of whoever is behind a website in case you pay them and they don't deliver).
    You have to think about it more in terms of DMCA/cease&desist/law enforcement and it might make more sense to Americans:

    "Oh, that DMCA complaint about some user using our service to provide a Super Bowl livestream? That went to our post box on the Bahamas. Three weeks later when it arrived at the main office and out internal mail processing had delivered it to our tech department, they immediately took down the stream."

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