The American Addiction Centers (AAC) in a lawsuit filed this week alleges the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers (NAATP), a trade group, engaged in anti-competitive efforts and defamatory practices.
The lawsuit was filled for improperly limiting access to addiction treatment resources on Google, Bing and Facebook.
It began when Google pulled ads for rehab facilities in the United States in September 2017, and in January 2018 extended that ban globally. In April 2018, Google then announced a partnership with LegitScript to reinstate the addiction treatment category in the U.S. Under this partnership, Google would require rehabilitation centers to become certified.
The lawsuit claimed the trade group coordinated an effort to prevent AAC from advertising on Google by misrepresenting it to LegitScript, the company certifying the addiction centers for Google Search. Once the centers gain certification, they can reinstate their advertising on Google’s search engine.
One report refers to AAC, the nation’s only publicly traded addiction treatment chain, as a "thriving marketing machine." The company operated more than 100 websites and ensured "AAC showed up frequently in search results."
The NAATP, with nearly 1,000 members, told Google and its business partners that the AAC’s directory websites were deceptive rogue “lead generators” and “call center aggregators,” according to the lawsuit.
LegitScript, in the lawsuit, acknowledged that the verification program was developed with help from NAATP.
The lawsuit also states that NAATP Executive Director Marvin Ventrell told LegitScript’s Horton that AAC and its websites were deceptive and that AAC was an unethical operator that should be excluded from the Google Ads program.
AAC was denied LegitScript certification, as a result of the complaint, and is not allowed to buy search ads on Google. Other companies such as Facebook and Bing also began using LegitScript services, making it nearly impossible for the company to participate in search advertising.
The AAC claims advertisers have left its directory websites that help those seeking help for fear of retaliation or blacklisting by NAATP or LegitScript. The AAC states that the false claims and improper attacks have caused chaos. The company believes that those seeking help now believe the AAC’s resources are “less reliable or inferior to the services offered by the NAATP directory.”
AAC has seen reduced client admissions and a loss of revenue and profits. The lawsuit also claims a loss of revenue because for treatment and addiction centers, LegitScript certification is required to advertiser on Google, Facebook, and Bing.