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Google Dubiously Removed Our True Telecom Article After Complaint

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 (8:10 am) - Score 1,855

Somebody claiming to be the owner of troubled Kent-based UK broadband ISP True Telecom appears to have successfully had one of our articles pulled from Google, which is despite the fact that the somewhat verbose reasoning given in the complaint appears to set a very low bar.

The article in question references our piece from 21st October 2016 (here), which summarised the fact that Ofcom had launched an investigation into how the provider handled consumer contracts and service migrations. However the target of this complaint appears to have been at least some of the 39 anonymous comments that accompanied our piece, rather than the article itself.

The vast majority of the comments referenced alleged problems with service migrations (allegations of slamming etc.), poor customer support, billing and cold calls. Since then most of the issues have been verified by industry regulators. For example, the ICO fined True Telecom £85,000 for “making illegal nuisance calls” (marketing) that gave “the impression they were from BT” (here), which the ISP later blamed on a “technical issue.”

The above is on top of a £400 fine applied by the ICO on 15th March 2017 after the ISP was found guilty of breaching section 17 of the Data Protection Act 1998 at Medway Magistrates’ Court (here), although that was such a small issue that we didn’t write anything about it at the time.

Most recently Ofcom has also slapped them with a £300,000 fine for mis-selling their landline telephone services (here). The regulator said the ISP had engaged in a “particularly aggressive form of mis-selling” (slamming – switching a service without consent), placing repeat transfer orders after end-users had tried to cancel, entering residential users into “banned” 36 month contracts and failing to keep or retain records of consent.

Suffice to say that few were surprised when the ISP announced this month that it had gone into administration (here), which occurred because the company was “unable to manage its cash flow requirements” to meet its liabilities. But last week a number of readers wrote in after they spotted that our October 2016 story had been removed from Google’s search index following a legal request made during Jan 2017, which seems to set a very low bar (here).

The request also affected two other websites, one of which is Martin Lewis’s popular Money Saving Expert forum. The fact that it combined the request for three very different websites with very different content only makes it that much harder to understand the somewhat verbose wording and examples being used in the complaint.

At this point there are a few things that need to be noted. The request states that the “customers in question have never existed in my database” (many of the gripes were about cold calls, thus not from customers) and that the comments were all “untrue“, although recent findings from Ofcom and the ICO would seem to disagree. Not to mention the many negative reviews found elsewhere around the web.

The complainant then claims to have “attempted to contact each complainer to try and resolve any issues” (except there are no contact details on public comments) and says they have “traced the IP addresses back” to a competitor (except there are no public IP addresses on comments, but this may reference one of the other two sites).

The complaint then veers off to waffle about disgruntled former staff, emails and pensioners that doesn’t seem relevant to ISPreview’s article or its comments. We assume this is related to the other sites but therein rests the problem with combining a legal complaint for three very different sources.

It would be all too easy to put the blame for this squarely upon Google’s shoulders, although the law leaves them with very little choice other than to automatically comply with such requests to cover liability because it would be impossible to fight every single one in a court (they receive millions of take-down requests). We did attempt to contact True Telecom about this but have had no reply and neither has The Register, which also covered this.

Usually if there’s concern over a specific piece of content or comment then ISPs will email us directly about it first (‘Notify and Remove‘), but on this occasion we received no such request. Sadly there doesn’t seem to be a straightforward way to appeal and this situation is perhaps another example of the flaw with the whole ‘Right to be Forgotten‘ approach and similar laws.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
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9 Responses
  1. dragoneast says:

    It’s the trouble with modern politicians and their legislative diarrhea. They don’t think of the consequences. Not just the politicians either, of course. The public ask for, or more often demand, it.

  2. Aled says:

    The politicians are mostly lawyers. Unsurprisingly, legal workers have a vested interest in creating a market for legal services, it just happens they like charging £1000 to send Google a snotty letter.

  3. Kits says:

    All this does is makes many who read it put the company name in the black list to never use.
    Posted by Pensioner, don’t use them, never have and now never will.

  4. a says:

    well google.com has it still, but is it bad EU legislation, people have the right to be forgotten, if it’s incorrect information.

    But if its true then why should people not know these things, seems there’s little rationale to it.

  5. Stephen Wakeman says:

    So the company in question goes into administration because it can’t pay the fines imposed on it.

    The same company issues a take down request of what ends up being correct verifiable information using spurious and incorrect accusations.

    The content is taken down based on the threat of what? Legal action from a company in administration? An individual? Whichever entity initiated the takedown request has no capital or assets to pay fines with. How can they pose any threat to Google?

    An injustice. The right to be forgotten doesn’t apply. They are guilty of breaching rules in a regulated market. They have no more right to be forgotten than someone who’s broken the law and doesn’t want anyone to know about it. Pathetic that they’ve somehow won this. Perhaps they should have put the same gusto into running a half decent outfit. Oh well, let’s hope the directors rot in hell.

  6. B says:

    What’s laughable is that the supposed ‘competitor’ Think Telecom had (until very recently) on its board of directors a close friend and school chum of the owners of True Telecom. Seems like a few porky pies were told to cover up their shady dealings. These guys are serial ************ and unfortunately you will no doubt see them pop up in another guise in the not too distant future!

  7. TheFacts says:

    TRUE TELECOM LIMITED
    Company number 08225783
    Previous company names
    Name Period
    PURE TELECOM UK LTD 24 Sep 2012 – 27 Sep 2012
    Accounts overdue

    THINK TELECOM LIMITED
    Company number 10433253
    Previous company names
    Name Period
    UTILISE SOFTWARE LIMITED 18 Oct 2016 – 07 Nov 2017

    1. Obscuring TheFacts says:

      At the time of the legal request made by True Telecom to Google (Jan 2017). The name Think Telecom was under a separate legal entity which is now known as:

      NATIONAL TELECOM SERVICES LIMITED
      Previous company names
      Name Period
      THINK TELECOM LIMITED 14 Apr 2015 – 07 Nov 2017

      Interestingly enough the same ‘chum’ has resigned from the previous ‘Think Telecom Ltd’ and joined the newly named ‘Think Telecom Ltd’ previously known as UTILISE SOFTWARE LIMITED

      You can move companies and use jiggery- pokery all you like – this is public information and people can clearly see whats going on! Muppets..

  8. Curious says:

    “It has become clear that two members of staff who left True Telecom to start up their own business have decided to anonymously spread malicious gossip online on the above three forums to try and steal clients from my own company”

    For one, where on any of the posts is anyone attempting to “steal” people?

    If that is the case, and it’s as clear as he says it is, then there is court case in there somewhere.
    Obviously there will be no court case, as obvious as it is there’s no one trying to “steal” his business.

    An absolute joke of a company (by the sounds of it) run by an absolute joke of a man (by the sounds of it). Trying to worm around and stop people from seeing hundreds of negative reviews of his company when typing the company name into a search engine!

    PATHETIC

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