Google Listings Falsely Mark Businesses as 'Closed'

Dennis Faas's picture

A loophole in the way Google's business listings service works means some legitimate businesses are falsely being listed as "closed". The search company appears unable to get round the problem without changing the entire basis of the system.

Google Places is a business directory, allowing users to find a business, store, or restaurant by searching either by name, type or location. The listings include a description written by the owner and a link to the relevant location on Google Maps.

However, the New York Times has reported on a major drawback to a feature designed to keep listings accurate. Visitors to the site can click a button to report errors, including notifying Google that the business has closed down. If an unspecified number of people make such a report, Google lists the site as "reportedly closed." (Source:

Review Process Under Question

In theory, Google then carries out a review and decides whether to list the site as "permanently closed" or remove the flag. The problem is that it appears several businesses are being listed as permanently closed when that is not the case.

The bogus closure reports by users look to be more than harmless pranks, with allegations that rival businesses may be carrying out sustained campaigns to harm the affected companies. One cafe shop owner said the issue was particularly important now that more people use smartphone location services and thus may check out local options on the spur of the moment when traveling.

Corrections Procedure Too Slow

Google does currently have a tool for registered business owners to signify that a closure listing is untrue, but it appears this doesn't always have a rapid effect. In the past few weeks Google has updated its system to send automated alert emails to business owners when their business is reviewed and listed as permanently closed. Business owners say they should be alerted as soon as the listing is first flagged as reportedly closed.

It's possible that the bogus closure reports could be classed as libelous. Unlike in some countries, US laws put weight into whether a false statement hurts somebody's business, even if the statement doesn't hurt their reputation. In other countries, such statements constitute a separate offence that requires proof of malicious intent. (Source:

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