Louth hotel taking Google to court over autocomplete

15 Jun 2011

The Ballymascanlon House Hotel in Co Louth is taking Google to court after the company’s autocomplete web search wrongly suggested the hotel was going into receivership.

According to The Open Algorithm, if a user begins to type “ballymascanlon” into the Google search bar, the second search term is “ballymascanlon hotel receivership.”

As a result, numerous worried customers have rang and emailed the hotel, concerned it may close down before their bookings. Speaking to Siliconrepublic.com, Chris Brayden, general manager at Ballymascanlon House Hotel, said it has also impacted future reservations.

“We would have brides looking to book 2013 weddings and it’s very hard for them to decide to pay a deposit in confidence when they see that we’re possibly in receivership and we’re not,” said Brayden.

“The company’s sound, we’ve been trading for 60 years. We couldn’t ignore it anymore,” he said.

According to Brayden, the hotel had sent Google Ireland three solicitor letters, after receiving no response through the usual online communications. The third said the hotel would take action against the search company and asked it to select a solicitor to accept a plenary summons.

After the hotel sent the summons, Google responded, saying the algorithm for the autocomplete search was made by the US Google team and that the issue should be resolved with them.

Brayden said they were taking Google to court because they were ignoring the hotel and that their autocomplete search engine still wrongly claims the hotel is in receivership.

“It’s been an ongoing situation. It’s perpetuating a rumour about the hotel being in receivership, which is untrue. A mega corporation like Google, having that as an auto prompt, gives credence to the rumour. It’s very defamatory and very dangerous for our reputation,” said Brayden.

Google Ireland said it was unable to comment on ongoing legal proceedings, but argued its autocomplete feature was not manually controlled by Google, but by what the user searches for.

“Autocomplete is a feature of Google search that offers predicted searches to help you find what you’re looking for more quickly. These searches are produced by a number of objective factors, including popularity of search terms,” said a Google spokesperson.

“Google does not manually select these terms – all of the millions of queries shown in autocomplete have been typed previously by other Google users.”

Brayden said the hotel has recently met with Google Ireland’s legal team to discuss the matter further.