A couple who were being strong-armed by internet tech giants Google, took them to court and won a £2.1 billion settlement.
Adam and Shivaun Raff, 51 and 49 years old, from Crowthorne, Berkshire, had left their jobs to start a lucrative price comparison website, Foundem.
However, as soon as they launched they incurred the wrath of Google.
Google’s aggressive tactics were haemorrhaging their business so badly, they decided to take the matter to court for competition and walked away with a handsome sum for their compensation.
The Raff’s started Foundem in 2005 as a price comparison website and it was designed to reach parts of the internet Google hadn’t touched according to tech magazine Wired.
Yet within days of their launch back in June 2006, they soon realised they were being penalised by Google and downgraded on search results except when you searched their name.
They tried contacting Google but to no avail. Even an endorsement from Channel 5‘s The Gadget Show as the UK’s best comparison site did little to help their cause.
While their initial launch saw their website became number one in Google’s search base the couple were soon in for a rude awakening within a matter of days as they saw Foundem drop from number one to 80 in the search ranks.
This was down to Google’s new update in the way their algorithm was designed to filter out spam.
According to Wired, this new update meant it would target features such as lack of original content, the defining qualities in search services.
As Google is hosted across various data centres the couple had to watch helplessly as the tech giants’ penalties swept over across their search engine, pushing Foundem further down in the search ranks in everything except its own name.
When Google refused to ease up on penalising the start-up website, and after The Gadget Show’s endorsement, the Raff’s finally decided to take the search engine to court.
Speaking to Wired, Adam Raff said: ‘It was clear that we’d have to go to war’.
That was the point where we said to ourselves, ‘F*ck this. Google are bullies. This is wrong. We are going to win.’
Following a year’s worth of complaining, Google finally lifted sanctions on Foundem and ‘whitelisted’ the website, they instantaneously saw their traffic jump up to 10,000 per cent.
However the Raffs observed how Google was using strong-arm tactics, muscling out their rivals and expanding their own price comparison service, making it top of their search results – known as ‘Froogle’ but rebranded as ‘Google Product Search’.
The couple took their case to the European Commission for Competition in Brussels and were the first plaintiffs in a case which soon included Yelp, TripAdvisor, Expedia and Deutsche Telecom.
The Raffs and their site Foundem – as well as other price comparison websites – finally saw justice in July 2017.
The European Commissioner for Competition deemed Google had ‘abused its market dominance’ resulting in the company having to pay off a £2.1 billion fine – the biggest ever issued to a single company.