Google cashes in on ads from shady UK companies that make millions from vulnerable people seeking addiction treatment, an investigation by the Sunday Times of London found.
The Web titan charges so-called referral agents up to $270 per click on ads that show up in its search engine, the paper reported.
The brokers can afford Google’s pricey rates because some private rehab clinics give them a cut each time a new patient is referred. That earns brokers as much as $27,100 a month in commissions.
Google doesn’t take ads from these greedy middlemen in the US because the practice is against the law in several states.
But in the UK, Google rakes it in by creating bidding wars between rehab-referral agents. They bid up the price of Google ads for rehab clinics in the hope their ads get good positions in Google searches.
The practice was described to undercover reporters by executives at two of the UK’s leading referral agencies — including the founder of the Amy Winehouse Project drug rehab center in Florida.