Google institutes a tighter vetting process for addiction-rehab ads

Avatar By Rick Docksai | 2 years ago

Google will start accepting ads from U.S. addiction-treatment centers again in July, after a nearly year-long suspension of such ads, the company told Reuters Monday. Google had put a moratorium on rehab ads in September after reports emerged of numerous deceptive and misleading ads.

Under the new system, addiction-treatment services will have to have their ads screened by Legitscript, a Portland, Ore.-based firm that will evaluate each service on criteria including criminal history, insurance and licensing records, commitment to “best practices” and “effective recovery,” among others.

The rehab service will have to pay $995 upfront and $1,995 on a recurring annual basis to undergo the vetting. The new rule applies to in-person treatment centers, crisis hotlines, and support groups, but not sober-living houses—Google said that it has yet to devise a vetting process for them.

The new rule follows similar extra vetting procedures that Google has set up for ads by online pharmacies, garage-door repairers, and locksmiths. Google said that it will also start requiring more documentation for groups wishing to post political ads, as well. John Horton, LegitScript’s chief executive, said that this “extra step” may inconvenience rehab centers but that it is necessary to guard against scammers.

“It’s unfortunate, but this is one way the market gets cleaner and people get the help they deserve,” said Horton.

Interest in addiction help has soared, leading to Google’s addiction-treatment ads netting $78 million or more annually as of last year, according to research firm Kantar Media. Google put addiction ads on hold in September after tech publication The Verge reported that scammers were posting fraudulent ads. Google said at the time that it would “consult with experts” to develop “a better way to connect people with the treatment they need.”