Flemish ombudsman pays Google to hide his name for complaints about De Lijn
Wednesday, 23 October 2019
De public transport company has never before received so many complaints. Credit: WikiCommons
The Flemish ombudsman is paying Google to hide his name in the search results when people look up the words ‘complaint’ and ‘De Lijn’ together.
The public transport company has never before received so many complaints, mostly as a result of cancelling journeys due to a staff shortage. The Flemish ombudsman, Bart Weekers, has received 888 complaints about De Lijn in 2019, he said in an interview with Het Laatste Nieuws.
“I have to refer all these people to De Lijn anyway, where they have a special form for complaints to fill in. Based on that form with data like bus lines and locations, De Lijn can do something,” Weekers said, reports Het Nieuwsblad. “There is not a lot I can do when someone impulsively notifies me that their bus has been cancelled,” he added.
The ombudsman works with so-called ‘negative keywords’. “They ensure that you are not included in the sponsored results that appear at the top of those search terms,” said Michiel Sallaets of Google, reports Het Nieuwsblad. “But to be clear, that only works for the sponsored results that appear in a different colour at the top. You cannot pay Google to stop appearing in the regular search results,” he added.
The De Lijn app is also the target of many complaints, according to Weekers. “The app announces the bus times, but only in theory, not taking into account the real traffic situation,” he added.
The ombudsman has a budget of €75,000 advertising money to spend per year, and spends most of it on advertising via Google. “The negative search term for ‘complaints’ is also part of that,” said Weekers.
Maïthé Chini The Brussels Times
This article has been updated to clarify the use of negative keywords in Google searches.