Searching for 'Martin Lewis PPI'? Make sure you don't get caught out by an ad
Users searching for the terms 'Martin Lewis PPI' and 'Money Saving Expert PPI' on Google are being met with links to claims firms – which may charge commission on reclaims – at the top of their search.
When we tested searching both for 'Martin Lewis PPI' and 'Money Saving Expert PPI', we found examples where up to four paid-for adverts appeared above the link to our Reclaim PPI for Free guide.
The way Google searches work is that paid-for adverts often appear at the top of searches, and 'organic search' results – which are ranked by their relevance to the search terms – often appear below.
We've heard from MSE users who've tried to find our Reclaim PPI for Free guide and have ended up accidentally clicking on one of the paid-for adverts without realising it wasn't MoneySavingExpert.com.
Even more worryingly, some of the title tags for these links are labelled as 'Matin Lewis PPI' or 'Martyn Lewis PPI' – even though Martin has nothing to do with the firms that they're linking to. We've reported these to Google to see if it can do anything.
We also found similar issues on three out of five other search engines, and will be reporting the issue to them.
The deadline to reclaim PPI is 29 August 2019. Use our Free PPI reclaim tool and guide to do this at no cost.
'Yesterday I got caught out, partly due to tiredness'
A number of users have got in touch with us about the search results.
One emailed us saying: "Yesterday I got caught out, partly due to tiredness on my part and partly because of how a link was worded. I believe I typed in 'Martin Lewis PPI' or 'Money Saving Expert PPI' into my search engine and this was one of the first to come up: 'Matin Lewis PPI | 60 Second Online PPI Checker'.
"I did not spot it straightaway but I have cancelled my 'free' PPI check request with this company by signed-for letter and a follow-up email, as I understand that there is a 14-day cooling-off period."
What is happening with search results?
Generally the highest ranking results on search engines are paid-for adverts, with companies bidding on search terms and paying the search engine if someone clicks through to their site.
These firms may not necessarily be bidding on the term 'Martin Lewis PPI', they could be bidding on similar searches, such as 'PPI'. But whatever the intention, the result is that some people who are searching for Martin Lewis PPI or Money Saving Expert PPI are seeing links to sites that are nothing to do with us or Martin, and which may charge for reclaims.
This doesn't happen every time you search the terms, and the links that come up do vary, but on several occasions we've seen the top link for Martin Lewis PPI go to a firm called Fast Track Reclaim, as shown in the picture below. This firm says it offers free checks for PPI, but adds: "Once PPI is identified, the free PPI check period ends and we will continue to work on preparing, submitting and negotiating your Claim(s). Our fee of 24%, inclusive of VAT."
Some of the links to the Fast Track Reclaim site also contain terms which are similar to 'Martin Lewis PPI', such as 'Matin Lewis PPI' (pictured) and 'Martyn Lewis PPI.' To be clear, this site is nothing to do with Martin.
Fast Track Reclaim says it does not have specific Google Ads which target keywords which exclusively relate to Martin Lewis or Money Saving Expert, but that it does have a bid on a broad match term for the keyword 'PPI'.
Google said its teams were looking into this issue and that there was a tool people could use to report ads they find inappropriate.
'If it doesn't say 'MoneySavingExpert.com', it isn't us'
Kirsty Good, head of campaigns at MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "It can be really easy to blur the lines between an ad and a search result – both look similar and for those who are less web-savvy, mistakes are easy to make. For a decade, MSE has led the way on PPI reclaiming, and helped consumers do it for free. What's galling is that people innocently looking for our help may end up being charged by one of these claims management firms instead.
"With the deadline to claim PPI looming nearer, those who've left it very late are even more likely to end up falling foul of this. Check the website address very carefully – if it doesn't say 'MoneySavingExpert.com', it isn't us. Remember, you don't need to pay anyone to do it – for relatively the same effort, you can complain yourself at no cost."
What does Google say?
A Google spokesperson said: "Because we want the ads people see on Google to be useful and relevant, we take necessary action to prevent fake and inappropriate ads.
"We have a tool where anyone can report these ads and these complaints are reviewed manually by our team. In 2018, we removed 2.3 billion bad ads and we're constantly updating our policies as we see new threats emerge."
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