City Light, a publicly-owned Seattle utility company, is demanding a $17, 500 fee refund from online public relations business Brand.com on the basis that the publicity business repeatedly failed to reduce the Google search ranking of an online article which portrayed CEO Jorge Carrasco in a negative light.
City Light originally asked Brand.com to work with it in October 2013 and later extended its contract until February 2014. Controversy over the effectiveness of Brand.com's claim that its activity "enhances online branding and clears negatives by blanketing search results with positive content" began when, despite repeated attempts, an unflattering 2008 Seattle Weekly Story regarding Carresco continued to rank highly in Google searches of the CEO's name.
Attempts to get the article de-indexed from the controversial Google ranking system using the recent European "right to be forgotten" ruling proved unsuccessful and the story remained a highly visible search result.
City Light also has issues with the way in which Brand.com appears to have distributed content to fake websites which have since been shut down.
Carrasco's Chief of Staff, Sephir Hamilton, said regarding Brand.com, "We were told that they would provide help in getting some of our past material and news releases placed in reputable blogs and journals and ultimately didn't know that they would be paying for placement or creating fake news websites to place that news, and ultimately, all of the material that was generated has been taken off search results because it violated Google's policies."
Brand.com has so far not responded to requests for comment and attempts to reach a settlement of the matter remain ongoing.