Keller Postman Files First Class Action Against Google for Deceptive Online Ordering Practices Harming Restaurant Owners
With Co-Counsel Sperling & Slater PC and Hausfeld LLP, the firms bring claims on behalf of a class of restaurant owners alleging trademark violations and false advertising
National plaintiffs’ law firm Keller Postman LLC, together with co-counsel Sperling & Slater PC and Hausfeld LLP, filed a putative class action on behalf of a class of restaurants alleging that Google LLC (Google) infringed their intellectual property rights and interfered with their customer relationships through the use of deceptive online ordering practices. This is the first lawsuit of its kind filed against the tech giant.
The complaint alleges that Google is deliberately misleading consumers by using the tradenames and reputations of the restaurant class members without their permission.
The plaintiffs claim that when a consumer wants to order food and uses Google to search for a restaurant, Google directs the consumer to an unauthorized digital “storefront” or pop-up webpage owned and controlled by Google. The complaint alleges Google purposefully designed these pages—including, prominently featuring the restaurants’ tradenames at the top—to deceive consumers into believing they are on a website operated by the restaurant. Google uses these pages to capture food orders it subsequently sells to delivery platforms, like Postmates, DoorDash, and Grubhub.
According to the complaint, Google never obtained the restaurant class members’ approval to launch or operate its storefronts or use the restaurants’ tradenames. The restaurants are robbed of valuable direct customer relationships and forced to incur substantial fees paid to delivery platforms (as much as 30%) for each order that Google routes to a delivery provider. A portion of that fee is paid to Google. Had consumers placed orders with the restaurants directly, the restaurants would have avoided or reduced the delivery platforms’ fees.
“The restaurant industry has already been gutted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Online orders have served as a lifeline to help them reach customers, make a slim profit, and continue employing their staff members,” said Keller Postman Partner Jason A. Zweig. “It is appalling that Google would take advantage of an industry going through such a challenging time and, through these deceptive and illegal practices, take a portion of their hard-earned profits for itself.”
The complaint further alleges that while certain delivery providers are licensed to sell the restaurants’ food items within their own websites and mobile applications, the agreements do not authorize Google’s websites.
“Restaurants need to make a profit to stay in business. But Google’s deceptive webpages divert orders and customers away from the restaurants and into a process that benefits Google, but not the restaurants,” said Tim Sperling of Sperling & Slater.
“We will work diligently to ensure not only that the plaintiffs are compensated for the losses they’ve experienced, but also to hold Google accountable and ensure no restaurants suffer in the future because of the company’s deceptive practices,” Bonny Sweeney of Hausfeld said.
The complaint alleges Google is in violation of the Lanham Act and seeks actual and enhanced damages from Google, as well as injunctive relief prohibiting Google from using the restaurant class members’ tradenames in connection with its online ordering offerings and requiring Google to take appropriate steps to undo and prevent consumer confusion.
Attorneys representing the plaintiffs, a Florida-based franchisee of six “Lime Fresh Mexican Grill” restaurants (Left Field Holdings LLC) and all others similarly situated, include Jason Zweig, Seth Meyer, and Alex Dravillas of Keller Postman; Timothy Sperling and Joseph Vanek of Sperling & Slater; and Michael Lehmann, Irving Scher, Bonny Sweeney, and Bruce Wecker of Hausfeld.
The action is Left Field Holdings LLC, et al. v. Google LLC, No. 3:22-cv-01462, and is filed in United States District Court for the Northern District of California.
If you are a restaurant owner who lost revenue due to Google’s deceptive online order practices and would like to join this proposed class action or learn more about the suit, please contact the attorney team through the following website: https://bit.ly/GoogleRestaurantClaims.
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*As of April 2022, the firm has changed its name from Keller Lenkner to Keller Postman.