Antitrust Service to Prosecute Firms for 'Superlative' Searches

Local branches of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service will prosecute companies that buy online advertising that appears next to searches that use superlatives. A case has already been opened in Perm, where a taxi service bought contextual ads for the words “best taxi.”

The Perm region branch of the anti-monopoly service reported that it opened the case against Vezyot, a taxi service.

The officials say they were reacting to petitions filed by local citizens who noted that entering the words “best taxi” and adding the name of a city in Yandex returns links to www.rutaxi.ru, a web site licensed to Vezyot in Perm. The regional anti-monopoly service said this violates the law on advertising, which bans ads that contain false claims of superiority. Vezyot representatives were unavailable for comment Wednesday.

The anti-monopoly service has previously dealt with many complaints about companies claiming to be the best on the market. The service has even proposed banning the use of superlatives such as “the best” and “number one” in advertising altogether. But this is the first time the anti-monopoly service has opened a case against a company that only placed an advertisement in the search results.

Advertisers on search engines such as Yandex and Google bid for their ads to appear next to search queries. For example, a user looking for a refrigerator in Yandex will see M-Video and Samsung, which bid for their ads to appear along with the search results. Advertisers can select phrases containing superlatives, from “best pizza” to “best music,” for their campaigns, said Ochir Mandzhikov, a Yandex representative.

Yandex warns companies using superlatives in their advertising that the link must lead to a page on the advertiser's web site where the claims are affirmed by research data or statements from third parties, Mandzhikov said.

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