Google dupes diners, sidelines restaurants for delivery profits - lawsuit

The Google app logo is seen on a smartphone in this illustration
The Google app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration taken September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration
  • Proposed class action says Google misuses restaurant names to divert delivery orders
  • Restaurants say they never authorized Google to sell their food

(Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google has been making unauthorized pages for restaurants and using them to take a cut of fees from delivery orders through sites like Postmates, DoorDash and Grubhub, according to a lawsuit Tuesday in San Francisco federal court.

The proposed class action filed by Left Field Holdings, a Florida franchisee of Lime Fresh Mexican restaurants, said Google has been creating illegitimate digital "storefronts" for restaurants and deceiving users into thinking that the restaurants approved them.

The lawsuit says Google takes a cut from the delivery sites for orders made through the storefronts, and in some cases delivery sites pay Google to divert users to them.

Left Field said restaurants are charged up to 30% of each order in fees by delivery sites, and therefore see "little (if any)" profits from them.

Google never received permission to sell the restaurants' food, designed the storefronts to look like they were restaurant-appproved, and placed a large "Order Online" button under restaurant search results to lure users to its storefronts, according to Left Field.

Google spokesperson José Castañeda said in a statement that the "Order Online" feature is meant to "connectcustomers with restaurants they want to order food from," and that it lets restaurants "indicate whether they support online orders or prefer a specific provider, including their own ordering website."

"We do not receive any compensation for orders or integrations with this feature," Castañeda said. "We dispute the mischaracterizations of our product and will defend ourselves vigorously."

The lawsuit accuses Google of deceiving customers and violating federal trademark law starting in 2019. It asks for an undisclosed amount of money damages on behalf of Left Field and similarly affected restaurant owners and a ban on Google's alleged misuse of their trade names.

"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," Left Field attorney Jason Zweig of Keller Lenkner said in a statement.

The case is Left Field Holdings v. Google LLC, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. 3:22-cv-01462.

For Left Field Holdings: Jason Zweig of Keller Lenkner; Irving Scher and Bonny Sweeney of Hausfeld; and Joseph Vanek of Sperling & Slater

For Google: n/a

(NOTE: This story has been updated with comment from Google.)

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, for Reuters Legal. He has previously written for Bloomberg Law and Thomson Reuters Practical Law and practiced as an attorney. Contact: 12029385713