/ Technology

Google Maps Trap? What is Search Point UK?

Have you been contacted by Search Point UK demanding money for Google My Business debts and services? We’ve taken a look at what’s going on.

Back in 2015, a business owner told us he was asked to pay a fee to remain listed on Google Maps.

Since then, that Which? Conversation has received many comments reporting a company named Search Point UK:

“I run a photography business and about two years ago I got a call from Search Point UK – I believed they were calling from Google. I agreed to have them manage our Google My Business listing for a year and paid about £300.

When that contract was up, they began calling again to renew it – but by now I realised I could manage it myself for free. I told them I didn’t want to renew.

But they were insistent that I owed them another £300 for another year of management and began calling multiple times a day. They’ve even sent final demand notices and claim to have a voice recording of me agreeing to their services again – which never happened.

I don’t know how to get them to leave us alone”

This commenter is far from alone. We’ve had many people contact us about Search Point UK harassing them for debts for services they say they didn’t agree to and found many other bad reviews online.

Other small business owners have told us they were cold-called and offered a free trial where their business was listed on Google Maps. But as these were registered by Search Point UK, they weren’t in control of their own listing and this was used against them. They claim they had to contact Google themselves to get control back.

Who are Search Point UK?

According to Search Point UK’s website, they specialise in the set-up and management of Google my Business listings for a fee, but they don’t say what those fees are. They do not claim to be associated with Google.

We tried to contact them about the case above and other reviews of their company, but they ignored our requests. They say on their site the only way to stop their calls is for the person they originally spoke to to confirm details.

Third parties charging fees for services which can be provided for free is not illegal.

We asked Google about Search Point UK, it said:

“Businesses should be wary of companies offering to sign them up for a fee”

Helpfully, a community member found how to report these dodgy practices directly to Google:

You should then request a Termination of End Customer relationship and they legally have to allow you to disassociate your company from them within seven days. The company is then legally obliged to give you exclusive control of your listing.

More information can be found on a Google My Business Help page. If you’d like to report a nuisance call, you can also read our free guide.

Have you been contacted by Search Point UK? What did they say about your Google My Business page? Let us know your experiences.

Comments

Search Point UK Ltd was dissolved 6th November 2018.
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10668759

It uses a virtual address that it shares with over 300 other ‘companies’:
West House, King Cross Road, Halifax, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, HX1 1EB

It was previously called Map Registrations Ltd for a period of 3 days in March 2017.

The person with 75% control appears to have been disqualified for the period 6th January 2014 to 5th January 2022.

The website of Search Point UK uses the address of UK Safety Management.
Unit 5, Temple Point, Finch Drive, Leeds, LS15 9JL

And UK Safety Management give their address as:
West House, King Cross Road, Halifax, West Yorkshire, United Kingdom, HX1 1EB
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/08817304

When is there going to be a law banning the use of virtual addresses that make these dishonourable companies so untouchable?

Although dissolved, this company still has what appears to be an active website that still accepts payments. Surely this illegal.

A bit more on this company from their employees – the newest one appears to be a good example of a fake review!

https://www.glassdoor.co.uk/Reviews/Search-Point-UK-Reviews-E2153982.htm

Taken from the employee comments………….
🔘 What you are doing here is COLD CALLING small businesses….
🔘….you are literally bullying customers and tricking them into a google listing……..
🔘 Targets are not reachable, people don’t want to pay for something they can do themselves …..
🔘 If clients did go ahead with ‘free’ trial they would then be hounded with multiple calls a day to get them to pay for a years subscription
🔘 For a company that has been shut down so many times….
🔘 This isn’t to mention the horrific violations of most of GDPR and other customer protective laws and regulations….
🔘 Told by two different managers to ignore people saying they’re on TPS….
🔘 Company was previously under a different name until it had a high volume of complaints….

It would appear this company is a prime example of a nuisance caller.

Robert Wilson says:
2 May 2019

My wife spoke to someone at search point and thought she was helping my business and gave them my details. They then hounded her day in day out and she asked the lady to send some info in the post to show to me and since then they have been hounding us for money.
It is my business, I am a sole trader, my wife is not employed by me and has nothing to do with my business. I have emailed and written to them asking them to cease contact as I have not agreed this so called contract. But to no avail and they continue to hound us.
I am worried this will affect my credit score and don’t know what to do now.

Andrew says:
2 May 2019

These people keep calling me, and I’ve asked them repeatedly to leave me alone, and remove my number from their database. The last one that called, then said ‘Don’t you want your free listing sir?’ To which put I got annoyed and told him again I don’t want to be contacted by them.
They are an extreme pain, and consistent pest. Reported them to the ICO as I’m TPS registered as well.

Hi just to warn anyone who has given searchpoint their card details over the phone as we did, as we were going to do business with them until our card was declined by our bank as our bank reported it as fraudulent activity, so decided to have nothing to do with searchpoint, since then we have discovered that after them sending us an email of us agreeing and attempting to pay, that all our card details are audible on the recording, we have since spoken to our bank and had the card stopped,as if details of cards are recorded over the phone the security number on the back should not be recorded as technically anyone could get hold of those details, they should not be able to keep these details on recordings

John Mason says:
3 May 2019

Just been phoned by these pests saying my Google Business registration had not been set up correctly. I seemed to recognise the name and Googled it whilst caller still on the phone. I suggested to him that it was a scam and said I was not interested. I have never been called “sir” so many times in one conversation.
He finally rang off when I asked why Google was showing the company as a scam.

SunshineNLollipops says:
3 May 2019

We were contacted by these before but has anyone emailed them directly and asked to have their number removed? My husband did that and they haven’t contacted us since.

Colin Goodhind says:
12 May 2019

I signed up to Map Registrations following a cold call implying doing so was the only way potential customers could be sure of reaching my website. I naively renewed in 2018 (now Search Point UK) but voiced my doubts that their service was right for my business which comes mainly from referrals. On further, albeit overdue, investigation I established that I could make sure that a standard Google search brought up my site with absolutely no need for their involvement. When I started receiving calls this year reminding me renewal was due I made it quite clear that I no longer required their services and I would not be renewing. I kept receiving calls including one in which they offered me a £50 discount, which I declined as I wasn’t renewing anyway, because I felt I’d been bullied into signing up in the first place and one in which they informed me I would be mailed an invoice to which I said ok. This was to get them off my back while I contemplated my next step. At no point did I agree to renew but they maintain my acknowledgment that the invoice was being sent constitutes agreement to renew. They have since sent me a copy of their recording of the conversation and recently wrote confirming they had added a £40 surcharge for the delayed payment and threatening County Court action if I don’t pay up. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Lee says:
12 May 2019

You mentioned that they will send you an invoice by mail in which you said ok to? That’s where they have you as it sounds like you’ve agreed to them over the phone to renew your listing . Even if it was said just to get them off the phone if they call you again try explain your situation as I don’t think saying ok is “fully” agreeing to something rather then a solid yes. I maybe wrong on this but it’s worth a shot.

Hi Colin,
Did you look at the links in my first post above?

I am no legal expert, but is a company that was dissolved over 6 months ago with a disqualified major shareholder in any position to threaten you with legal action?

Unless anyone comes up with a better idea for you, I would think this is worth taking to West Yorkshire Trading Standards who state:
The Role of West Yorkshire Trading Standards
We work with consumers to prevent them from becoming victims, with businesses to help them comply with good practice and with partners to put funds back into communities.

https://www.wyjs.org.uk/trading-standards/

The website gives a link to Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline that you have to go through.

Hi Colin
We have been hounded by them too as we agreed to sign up with them until our bank declined the card 3 times as possible fraudulent activity, they even have a recording of us agreeing up until that point, we have told them countless times that we will not be doing business with them but they still ring occasionally saying we owe them money, this has been going on for nearly a year, now I just politely say we owe you nothing and put the phone down, they are just trying to scare you by threatening court, so my advice is just ignore them

Tim Capper says:
30 May 2019

I find this a very misleading and factually incorrect article, including comments posted.

Map Registrations was shut down due to incorrect procedures and management.

Search Point UK was created with new management, staff and procedures in place to prevent any past mistakes from occurring. It was created to help businesses to manage their Google My Business listings.

This is not against Google My Business 3rd Party Guidelines or any current Google Guidelines.
(Amelie Wade – Google Quote ?)

In order to maintain these standards Search Point UK use an external compliance auditor, namely myself .

I am a current Google Product Expert for Google My Business:
https://support.google.com/business/answer/2449544

As part of ongoing compliance auditing of Search Point UK, I make unannounced visit to the offices and select randomised accounts to check as well as monitor phone calls between call agents and businesses to ensure 3rd Party Guidelines are adhered to at all times.

I also review complaints received from users of the service and cross reference these with the recorded calls and have yet to find an instance of mis selling of their service under 3rd Party Guidelines.

If any of the above users would like to forward me their complaints, I will be able to check their files for any 3rd Party Guideline violations.

** Note: This only applies to Search Point UK interactions.

If I do find any violations:

1) I provide Search Point UK the opportunity to correct the issue.

2) I file a 3rd Party Violation report direct to the Google My Business team.

Under 3rd Party Guidelines, Search Point UK endeavours to transfer ownership of the business page to the user, regardless whether they continue to use the service. If the user does not provide a Gmail to transfer listing after 30 days, Search Point UK removes themselves from management of the listing as a matter of course.

Customers that file complaints about not agreeing to the 12 month management service are provided with a recording of the phone call where they agreed to the management service.

** Note: This is not within Google 3rd Party Guidelines, but again if you contact me with your details I would be happy to look into this on my next audit visit.

Amelia Wade:

Your attempt to “contact” them … really ?

Many people contacting you about debt harassment …. really? – See above and send me details.

Ownership of listing …. really? – See above and send me details

Only way to stop calls is to speak to the original person.
Not within 3rd Party Guidelines and not in my remit but in any business agreement you speak to the original customer, not someone else – would you be happy for your receptionist or staff to make purchasing decisions ??

Again I would be happy to look at any instances or allegations about Search Point UK that have been made above – about Google 3rd Party Guidelines in my capacity as compliance auditor and Google Product Expert.

Tim Capper, the info in your link says you operate a bespoke SEO consultancy called onlineownership.com:
https://onlineownership.com/

Why does Companies House say the company was dissolved on 20th January 2015?
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/07362157

You are listed as a shareholder in the Annual Return dated 13th Sep 2013.

Kevin says:
31 May 2019

SEARCH POINT UK LTD history:
06 Nov 2018 Final Gazette dissolved via voluntary strike-off
17 Mar 2017 Company Name change from MAP REGISTRATIONS LTD
Yes, this all looks above board and not suspicious at all.

Looks like it was a different company, alfa.

Good to see someone presenting another side to an issue. We need more of that to help with the discussion.

However, this contribution gives no real facts, but without looking at the case histories I agree that would be difficult. I suggest Which? ask the aggrieved commenters to contact Online Ownership direct with their complaints, and keep Which? updated with the action that will be taken. That is if they have commenters’ contact details – a reason to require registration , particularly if people need help.

Looks like the same company to me malcolm:

https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/company/10668759/filing-history

14th March 2017 – Map Registrations Ltd incorporated as a private company.
17th March 2017 – Company name changed to Search Point UK Ltd
6th November 2018 – Search Point UK dissolved.

Tim Capper said:
Map Registrations was shut down due to incorrect procedures and management. Search Point UK was created with new management, staff and procedures in place to prevent any past mistakes from occurring. It was created to help businesses to manage their Google My Business listings.

Map Registrations must have made an awful lot of mistakes in those 3 days !!!

It appears there are now 2 companies trading that no longer exist, as Tim Capper’s company was also dissolved 20th January 2015.

Is it legal to trade from dissolved companies and do these companies submit accounts or pay taxes?

alfa, sorry – thought you were referring to Online Ownership (the Ltd version of which was also dissolved and did not name T Capper).

Search Point UK was reported as being dissolved early on in the Convo, as you say in Nov 2018. I wonder which Search Point UK company T Capper is making unannounced visits to?