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Google Gets Consumer Service Ultimatum From German Consumer Groups

samzenpus posted about a year and a half ago | from the or-else dept.

Google 351

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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You know... (5, Interesting)

MrDoh! (71235) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490343)

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!

Re:You know... (1)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490371)

Well me too but this is bullying in extortion territory. Sue them for what? This reads like an email from an 8 year old.l

Re:You know... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490407)

Sue them for breaking german law. The Telemediengesetz (German Teleservices Act) expressly demand that any service provider must provide direct contact methods.

Re:You know... (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490559)

CUSTOMER support.

Unless you are PAYING google for some service, you are not a CUSTOMER.

If the law in Germany requires providers of FREE services to provide support (which is costly) to users of its free services, I suspect Google will shortly stop offering said free service to German users. (They might offer a paid service, or they might just not offering service completely)

Re:You know... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490579)

Wrong. Yes the law is valid and must be complied to even if your service is free. And make no mistake, Google is a multi-billion dollar company, not some charity organisation run by goodwill. They a huge company and can afford customer care.

Re:You know... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490661)

Totally irrelevant.

It's no wonder you lost. Twice.

Re:You know... (4, Interesting)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490665)

The issue is "customer." The customers for Google are the advertisers, not the users. The US is about the only place that allows the separation of "user" from "customer" with any meaning. Europe and most other places considers the user the customer, even if they are not paying for it. It's yet another US vs the world definition war.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490583)

So provide a german only boiler-plate pusher with queues in the weeks region. A single person can handle the whole Germany contact volume. You also need to attach a copy of your ID, to prove that you are german.

If you don't like the "use it or leave it" approach to providing services, then leave them. There's no fundamental reason businesses have to incur the higher cost that comes with servicing the 1% idiots who flood call-centers with dumb questions, save for stupid laws. Fuck Pareto and fuck stupid laws.

I have many problems with the way Google is conducting it's business but lackluster human support ain't one.

Re:You know... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490595)

No. Google has to "use it or leave". Comply toi german law or don't do business in Germany. Not the other way round.

A company doing business in the USA has to comply to the stupid COPA law or can't do business there. Simple. Just the same

Can local laws dictate what Internet must do ? (2)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490691)

Sue them for breaking german law

This begs a question ...

Can local laws dictate what Internet must do ?

What if country X has a law which states that *All information passing through our country must carry the slogal "THE QUEEN OF COUNTRY Y IS A BITCH"*, then what?

Should all the emails, PDF and whatnots that somehow pass through that country X have to carry that silly and provocative slogan??

Re:Can local laws dictate what Internet must do ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490735)

Local laws dictate what companies operating or based within their borders must do.

Re:Can local laws dictate what Internet must do ? (1)

Taco Cowboy (5327) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490775)

Lest you have forgotten, Google is not based in Germany

Re:Can local laws dictate what Internet must do ? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490821)

Wrong. The have offices in Germany. As such they operate in Germany and must comply to the law. The Google HQ is not of relevance.

Google Hamburg
Google Germany GmbH
ABC-Str. 19
20354 Hamburg
Deutschland
Telefon: +49 40-80-81-79-000
Fax: +49 40-4921-9194

Google München
Google Germany GmbH
Dienerstraße 12
80331 München
Deutschland

Google Germany Gmbh (3, Informative)

andersh (229403) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490823)

Lest you forget Google is incorporated in almost every European country you can name.

Google Germany GmbH
ABC-Str. 19
20354 Hamburg
Deutschland

Telefon: +49 40-80-81-79-000
Fax: +49 40-4921-9194

Google München
Google Germany GmbH
Dienerstraße 12
80331 München
Deutschland

Re:Can local laws dictate what Internet must do ? (1)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490829)

They sell advertising services to Germans though.

Re:You know... (1)

dnaumov (453672) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490725)

Why should a company located in the USA obey german law? The fact that a service is avaiable to germans via the internet is NOT akin to "doing business in Germany". We've been over this hundreds of times. How would you like it if you had some service running in your country and accessible to the internet and I'd sue you because you don't comply with laws of MY country?

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490787)

An international company with offices around the world does have to comply with the laws of each country where they have presence. In this case, Google does have offices in Germany, in Hamburg and Munich, according to Google's own corporate website (https://www.google.com/about/company/facts/locations/). It's not some small mom&pop shop that also has a website.

Granted, Googles headquarters office are in the USA and the laws of they have to follow those laws as well so they are converted into "company policy" to be transfered into their international offices. I don't really know if this is truly the case inside Google, all I can say it that it was the case when I worked at Sun Microsystems in "another" country and we had mandatory internal training on "company policy" regarding the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, even if there already was a local law on the same topic.

In short, Google does have to comply with German Law because it IS doing busines in Germany.

Pirating again (1)

twisteddk (201366) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490817)

Fine, then why should I not just go pirate the latest [insert name of big US recording star here] if I am only violating US law and I am not a US citizen ?

We happen to live in a global world, Globalization is a fact that business will have to deal with. This includes American businesses aswell as Chinese, German and everyone else.

Agreed, court orders, mandates etc. will be difficult to enforce across national borders. that doesn't mean that a company doing business in a country wont comply with local laws there just the same. No one needs the aggravation of fighting legal battles, getting a bad reputation etc. Sometimes it's a lot easier to comply than to complain.

Re:You know... (-1, Troll)

symbolset (646467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490413)

This is just another attack on Google funded by Microsoft and/or Apple. Sooner or later we will find out who got paid.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490471)

This is just another attack on Google funded by Microsoft and/or Apple. Sooner or later we will find out who got paid.

I'm guessing you are not from Germany (or Europe). This is standard consumer protection laws over here, that even Google and Apple (also in similar trouble) are not above. No conspiracy needed.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490517)

Is Microsoft being prosecuted, and if not, why not?

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490571)

M$ has given around 2 billion euro in fines just in the last 3 years.... its not like EU is giving them a free pass :)
 

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490551)

w0w , this is not US dude... this is EU... we're not ruled by big companies. Fsck google, fsck apple fsck microsoft. This is for the ppl , not for some company.
^ This kind of sound like 'This is Spartaaaaa..' muff .. :S

Re:You know... (-1, Troll)

symbolset (646467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490617)

You could try running your economy on something other than fines levied on multinational corporations. How about you pay your own taxes like the rest of us do?

Re:You know... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490719)

. this is EU... we're not ruled by big companies.

Is that what the propaganda ministry of the fourth reich tells you?

Sucker.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490721)

You're right it's not, and it's still stupid. Sucking off the tit of companies is working well for you.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490607)

This is just another attack on Google funded by Microsoft and/or Apple. Sooner or later we will find out who got paid.

Go back to ZDNet, they like morons over there

Re:You know... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490611)

btw ur Apple fan boy from USA, right? At least u sound like one.

Re:You know... (1)

symbolset (646467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490645)

I'm thinking you're new here.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490701)

This is just another attack on Google funded by Microsoft and/or Apple.

Paranoid much?

It's pretty obvious to me that this is just a pack of self-appointed busybodies seeking attention.

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490415)

You are missing the point that Gmail/Gwhatever users are not CUSTOMERS, they are PRODUCTS

Re:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490497)

Products (like farm animals) have their rights too.

Re:You know... (1)

oreaq (817314) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490671)

You are missing the point. Google wants their users to be the product. German law states otherwise. Guess who's opinion will prevail in court.

Re:You know... (2)

blackest_k (761565) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490585)

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:You know... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490603)

Why don't they commit to it then? The only thing the consumer organization demands is Google comimiting to actually answering all customer's questions.

Re:You know... (3, Informative)

oreaq (817314) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490705)

after all i can ask them anything and they usually give me pages and pages of answers

Try asking them: Which personal information have you stored about me? Where did you get this information from? Whom did you share this information with? You see German law states that everyone owns his own personal information and that any company that stores or processes personal information must answer the questions I mentioned.

Re:You know... (2, Funny)

nospam007 (722110) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490655)

"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:You know... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490667)

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.

Re:You know... (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490747)

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.

Germans are pushy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490357)

Every time I hear about Germany on this website its about them wanting to force a company into doing what they want. If they don't BAM lawsuit.

Re:Germans are pushy (-1, Flamebait)

symbolset (646467) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490395)

The EU economy is now pretty much run on fines levied to multinational corporations. As long as they don't tax any one too hard or often they're going to get away with it.

Re:Germans are pushy (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490803)

As compared to the US gouvernment doing what companys want them to do?

You should check your social science textbooks once more whose job it is to make laws.

what ? (-1)

Redmancometh (2676319) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490363)

Am I missing something or are these guys a bunch of douchebags w entitlement issues? Court over not responding "personally" to emails? How do these people use the internet without cornholing themselves on rage? Also I bet these guys get bottle service at clubs..dbags.

Re:what ? (4, Insightful)

dingen (958134) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490473)

Well apparently the law in Germany says you can't provide a service without having a method for customers to contact the provider directly. And why not? Why would it be so strange to be able to call Google up with a question or send them an e-mail and get a response?

UK also (4, Insightful)

Alain Williams (2972) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490531)

UK law also has a similar provision in the UK's E-Commerce Regulations [out-law.com] (scroll down to Minimum information to be provided). Google does not comply, I talked to a Google employee who told me, something like, that it was not convenient/efficient and that I should use a web form.

I don't like putting questions via web form since I don't get to keep a copy as I do when I send email.

Re:what ? (3, Interesting)

dkf (304284) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490533)

Well apparently the law in Germany says you can't provide a service without having a method for customers to contact the provider directly.

But does the law require the use of any specific technological method? (It would seem pretty dumb if that was the case, as technologies do change.) Would a variation on an online forum where users can elect to not have their questions be public and where there is someone (or several people) dedicated to answering the questions be an acceptable solution? After all, for virtually anything where you are dealing with Google at all, you'd be online and so able to use a web forum.

Re:what ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490831)

But who is the customer here? I suspect it's not the people using all the free services, but rather the people paying money to Google to advertise on those services.

Like broadcast radio - the customers aren't the people listening, it's the advertisers. (We can put the radio in a car if that helps anyone.)

Well... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490387)

If this is over paid service, I can see it to some extent, but even then, if you think Google isn&t responsive enough, you can always go elsewhere. There are a lot of places offering outsourced mail, calendar, etc.

If it is over the free service - I think you get what you pay for. In Google's case, I think you get a lot more than you pay for. The least you could do is not complain about it.

Still, if I were Google, I would sign the thing and start offering the requested service - and start charging all German users more to cover the costs of the service. It wouldn't be long until German customers started signing up as non-Germans just to save on fees.

Re:Well... (2)

Alpha232 (922118) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490433)

Downside to that is the law applies to all German companies, not just business who publish under .de domains.
Additionally it is about Consumers, so one could say you register in the US, but the company has a presence and users in .XX then you have to deal with the laws that cover .XX's users even if they are not paying for it as a .XX user.

Google must be more responsive (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Anything that states it has to be free? (1)

Alpha232 (922118) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490417)

Simple solution for Google, claim it as a business loss or start charging for it.

Want a personal reply? Open a Google wallet, €1.75 per email and you get your personal response.
Can't charge for it? Any costs associated with complying, go ahead and bill it against the corporation formed in Germany. Once it starts having net losses then close it down and forward the .de domain to somewhere else. Then the only page you publish is a redirect header. Easy to support with 100% accuracy any time in an automated email reply.

Re:Anything that states it has to be free? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490439)

Why do you revel in companies giving the most utterly shite customer service possible?

Re:Anything that states it has to be free? (1)

Alpha232 (922118) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490485)

If you had not posted as AC I may have given this response more effort.
No reveling here, just a responsible attitude. How much does Google make off of 1 .de user on average, how many emails from annoying entitled freeloaders do they get from .de and what is the cost to handle it all?

Are you saying to take into account the costs is not a valid thought process?

Re:Anything that states it has to be free? (5, Insightful)

andrewbaldwin (442273) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490613)

The annoying entitled freeloaders are simply asking for what they are entitled to under local laws.

If Google (or anyone else) doesn't like it they're free to stop doing business in that locality; it is their choice to weigh up the benefits and costs of operating there but if they do choose to do so then they must abide by local laws.

Are you saying to take into account the costs is not a valid thought process?

I suspect that a company as big and successful as Google is well aware of the costs of doing business and, as they are continuing to operate there, have assessed them as being worth bearing.

In a nutshell, if you work in country X you must obey the laws there - no matter how big or self important you see yourself; the cultural imperialism of your home country's attitudes to laws and business are quite frankly irrelevant. If I set up a business in the US deliberately flouting the laws (e.g. selling Cuban cigars) I'd expect to get some trouble from the law, even if my main offices were located in a separate country.

Re:Anything that states it has to be free? (1)

dcw3 (649211) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490753)

"Entitled to", how? What did you do to deserve this free service, and expectation to get more free service in the way of a written response?

Yes, I understand it's your local law, and they're free to not do business there. But, how would you handle a company that doesn't have a presence?

Re:Anything that states it has to be free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490809)

Google has 4 data centers in Germany (according to some list I found).
How exactly is it that they do not have a presence there?

Re:Anything that states it has to be free? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490515)

I believe that's Ryanair's strategy. Their complaint line is like 1E/minute...

Customer are people who pay money. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490419)

Google's service is free.

Re:Customer are people who pay money. (5, Insightful)

lennier1 (264730) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490467)

It's far from free. You simply pay with your personal information instead of your wallet.

Re:Customer are people who pay money. (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490757)

You simply pay with your personal information instead of your wallet.

Awesome! Then I am like totally ripping them off every time I use Google!

My personal information ain't worth shit! Most folks would only pay money to get rid of me . . . not to get any personal information about me!

Re:Customer are people who pay money. (1)

lennier1 (264730) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490773)

You seem to forget that it's not just your (fake) profile data (e.g., "Name = Jack Wanker"), but the actual usage details as well (search, discussion topics, maps lookups, GPS data, ... ).

Re:Customer are people who pay money. (1)

BACbKA (534028) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490799)

Even worse, you also pay with personal information of those you communicate with, and they have no say in it.

Re:Customer are people who pay money. (1)

wmac1 (2478314) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490507)

So you mean they don't provide paid services?

Even if it is a free service, it is an undertaking. They cannot just leave customers (free or paid) to themselves without resolving problems that arise from the service.

Re:Customer are people who pay money. (1)

MultiPak (2475794) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490547)

Yes they can leave customers to themselves if it is free, but they should provide the ability to have a support contract. Maybe this would be a good revenue earner for them.

Re:Customer are people who pay money. (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490723)

It's illegal to provide a service that doesn't do what you say it will. It doesn't matter if the service is free, or there is no contract. In many places outside the US, the government works for the people, not the corporations.

Re:Customer are people who pay money. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490637)

I doubt that your definition of 'customer' is legally correct. I think that allmost any modern legal system considers you as a customer as soon as you receive a product or a service from a company.

Anyways: the German law requires a personal email assistance for every web presence (independent of being a customer) so that visitors of yoour website have a channel to get answers to their questions and/or complaints.

I don't get it (2, Insightful)

tsotha (720379) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490421)

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

Statutory consumer laws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490449)

Consumers are protected in the EU by really strong consumer laws. It makes no difference whether a service is free or costs a lot, the company that provides it still has to comply with its statutory duties in respect of consumers of its service.

Re:I don't get it (0)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490453)

Their services are not free. The users are the product. Google sells their attention to advertisers. Google courts their business because it wants their attention and personal data.

Re:I don't get it (1)

MultiPak (2475794) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490557)

But that will not cover the cost of responding to all the emails, isn't that obvious? So if it is not economically viable, then they should not provide free services?

Re:I don't get it (1)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490563)

Those evil bastards. Giving away their services for free! The nerve of them. And then monetizing it a different way! Capitalism sucks.

I suppose everyone has forgotten when webmail had a 10Mb storage limit.

Re:I don't get it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490677)

Straw man. Neither the article nor the summary complains about Google services being free, monetised, or providing insufficient capacity.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490621)

Users are not paying anything for google services, which means they are by definition free. You could make similar argument about any software with trial version. Even though trial version is free to download and use for some time, user has to pay to his ISP to be able to download it and pay attention while using it. Should anyone providing trial version of software be forced to provide email support as well?

The most important question is: Who's going to bear the cost? If google services become unprofitable, then they might be forced to shut it down. Is this really desired outcome?

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490647)

You don't know what 'free' mean, do you?

Free does not mean that Google receives absolutely no remuneration for their services. It means they provide services to you without requiring a payment.

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

Lundse (1036754) | about a year and a half ago | (#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.

Re: there is a TOS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490785)

You have to agree to it when you sign up... If you don't agree you must not use the service. If you have reason to believe google is not upholding the terms stated then I'm sure they can reimburse you.

Re:I don't get it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490481)

Yes. It may come as a surprise to you, but democratic governments can actually decide that people have rights, EVEN with regards to what companies need to do for them...

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490657)

You are a fool. This would be deciding that Google's shareholders have no right to continue their longstanding business model in Germany. It would not be granting anyone rights, it would be removing them. Try running the numbers for Google having staff responding to even a tiny fraction of their users. Then look at Google's financials and guestimate the revenue from the average customer.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490737)

And this is why people make fun of crazy libertarians. Consumer rights are inherently evil because they restrict captains of industry!

Re:I don't get it (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490555)

The law demands a level of service for EVERY WEB PRESENCE, including private Web pages.
Yes, Google should not be exempted from something Jane Doe must do.

Now if the law is questionable or not is another issue.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490573)

They are demanding that even free services have a basic level of support and transparency.

Does that mean that it becomes cost ineffective to provide free services that also shit on people's privacy and rights, like Google does? Maybe so. Germans would rather pay up front than pay for 'free' services in other ways.

Sounds good to me. Keep it up Germany.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490577)

No you don't.

Re:I don't get it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490759)

Consumer comes from the word consume.

Consume != buy /. I might be a coward but I keep getting the captcha wrong, I had to ask a family member to solve it. (speakers don't work)

User-facing corp needs customer services (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490437)

FAQs and documentation and community groups aren't "customer services". A good service provider also needs to offer direct personal attention when it's requested.

Somehow Google has gotten away with having a bazillion users and making megazillions of dollars off them as advertising targets, and yet effectively provides them with no customer services when they need it. This really flouts the strong laws for the protection of consumers in the EU.

I know that Slashdotters will inevitably trot out that "users are the product and not customers of Google", but the EU laws are for the protection of consumers , not just direct customers. Google's users certainly consume Google's services which undoubtedly are a Google product.

So, it's time for Google to pay a bit more attention and look after its users in the statutory manner if they wish to continue making huge profits in Europe too.

Re:User-facing corp needs customer services (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490653)

great idea for Google, open dedicated phone line (or more of them) for German citizens, put on the phone some low paid /"mcdonald paid" slave/student to answer all questions, and charge (over phone bill) 10 euros/minute of customer support, they will comply with this law, AND make millions

respond to "customers" sure no problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490469)

users aren't the customers, the advertisers are.. and there's a lot fewer of those then there are users... even paying users aren't customers, they're still users -- still the product, because their shit is still being analyzed for content to enhance google's ad delivery.

You can email Google (1)

contrarywise (1981398) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490505)

When I emailed Google with a complaint I got a detailed reply. No complaints on that score from me. Of course I had to email via the fan club page, using their "tell us how Google has enriched your life" form - anything that removes that little bit of tomfoolery will get my vote.

Re:You can email Google (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490587)

Lucky you. The point is: google will not commit to doing this for all it's customers. And that's against the law in Germany (wether you like it or not)

Re:You can email Google (1)

Derekloffin (741455) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490633)

While some might quibble with the general principle, I quibble merely with the means of communication. Email is seriously unreliable and should never be designated the necessary avenue to deal with issues. Convenient, perhaps, but by no means solid enough to base such a declaration on.

Summary and explanation for foreign Google fans (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490519)

Google is violating the German Teleservices Act. Giving them a chance to comply is no harassment, no entitlement or other nonsense. It's fair. And yes suing them for breaking a law is normal. Just like in any other country.

No, it's no conspiracy. They are not the first or only company that got trouble for not complying with that law.

No it doesn't matter if the service is free or paid-for. Totally irrelevant.

Direct contact methods must be provided and you may not charge for it. That's the german law. If you want to do internet business in Germany, that's what you have to abide to, or get sued.

It's that simple.

German Consumer Groups (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490537)

So, they have sent Google an ultimatum have they?

Good luck getting an answer!

Golden Opportunity (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490615)

Assuming Google goes ahead and complies, how long will it be before an email inquiry comes in like, "How much of my personal information do you sell directly to third-party data warehouses like Datalogix and Acxiom, and how do I opt out?"

Direct-sponsored targeted ads on Google sites using visitor data are only one piece of their revenue stream. Big Data loves Google, and vice-versa.

Disclaimer: I stopped using every and all Google services four years ago. Same for Yahoo, ditto Myspace, Facebook, iAnything and Linked-In. Dumped my Android phone contract too. It's amazing how little I needed them, and astonishing how much privacy people will give up for bells and whistles.

Re:Golden Opportunity (1)

some old guy (674482) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490749)

Google response: In accordance with the ToS you agreed to, that information is the property of Google and we can do whatever we damned well feel like. Go ahead, sue us. We have more lawyers than you.

TAILS OS - do you use it? Anon needs help to impro (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490663)

New Anonymous project to curb Tails privacy/security issues!

Tails - new unofficial project to nip the buds

(Please see the .onion link at the bottom of this article for where to respond and help this project with your suggestions. Please do not post at the Tails forums, Tor mailing lists, or in IRC - we are only checking the existing thread at the .onion location below, which requires Tor to access.)

In a few areas of the Tails Forums, (one example below) Tails users have posted about certain âdata collection, logging, debugging, Whisperbackâ(TM), and other issues a distro such as Tails should not include!

I am working on a project which will stop this type of collection and it will be free and released with each new version of Tails (it wonâ(TM)t be included with the Tails distro or worked on by Tails/Tor developers) â" matching any changes the Tails team may make to try and obscure these data logging/collection activities between versions.

Here is one example post from a concerned user (post exists now, could be deleted later!):

Why does Tails log too much? .recently-used.xbel
https://tails.boum.org/forum/Why_does_Tails_log_too_much__63___.recently-used.xbel/ [boum.org]

#

An example of this is this hidden file: .recently-used.xbel located in amnesia folder. To see, open Home/amnesia, press Cntrl+h, look for that file. The contents of that file logs recently used programs and files with names and timestamps.

There are many other logs for different activities and events, a simple look around can locate these.

Caching thumbnails, recent documents, terminal command history and the similar..

Why would Tails need to log all these things during the session?

Some are useful for bug reporting, but many other arent and are widely revealing of system activities.

Yes, a restart will wipe everything, but what about while in the session?

Can an option be made for Tails to be log free or normal where the user can choose between the two? Like run log free and if a problem occurs to re-run tails with logs to identify the problem.â

#

There are debugging scripts, Whisperback, a script to drop all firewall protection, and much more in Tails.

I need more information from Tails users (Tails developers and those pretending not to be Tails developers posting against this will be ignored) before the first release is announced.

Boot into Tails and examine every nook and cranny and post about any file(s) with full path, which contain anything related to logging (excluding /var/log directories â" those will be dealt with) and/or sending of individual personal data.

On their mailing list they even had the balls to discuss whether or not they should add the package âpopconâ(TM)!

This project will be developed by an anonymous user (not included in the well known âAnonymousâ(TM) group). I will not reveal usernames from posters here, but I may credit this forum with each release with thanks for the help.

So boot into the most recent release of Tails, sniff around as much as possible, and post back juicy information to the thread in âNEWSâ(TM): http://clsvtzwzdgzkjda7.onion/ [clsvtzwzdgzkjda7.onion]

Thank you.

I like this idea. (3)

seebs (15766) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490687)

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.

...fuck it... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490695)

I am just going to sum up 50% of the comments so far.

"'MURKA. Gurmunee aint got no rights to make their own laws. It dont say they could in the constitution of the U.S. of A. Dem Gurmun shud shuddup and just take the laws that we gives to them. Else maybe we needs to drop some freedom on them. MURKA."

ACCOUNTABILITY (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#43490729)

To the consumers you provide a service for and are also the product you base your business on.

Accountability seems to be bad to many people. Why is that?

How do you define a "response"? (1)

Su27K (652607) | about a year and a half ago | (#43490765)

Does it has to be typed by a human? If so what's preventing me from launching a DDOS attack against any company by generating tens of thousands of emails to customer support and asking for a response? If it doesn't have to be typed by a human, what's preventing Google from just sending a customized automated response, using something like Siri?

I think this is just a case of laws being out-paced by technology.
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