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Grubhub has bought thousands of domain names to compete against its own customers

Image credit: GrubHub (Image credit: Image credit: GrubHub)
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Online food delivery company Grubhub has purchased thousands of domain names that resemble those of businesses that are either already on its platform or are trying to be according to a new report from New Food Economy (opens in new tab).

The company owns over 23,000 (opens in new tab) of these look-alike domains that it has set up to resemble landing pages for restaurants on its platform. The sites even have an online ordering form to trick consumers into thinking they belong to the restaurants themselves.

Restaurant owners are up in arms over the discovery and they believe that Grubhub is tricking users that try to visit their sites into ordering on its platform instead.

The company is the largest online food delivery service in the US and is also the parent company to a number of other similar services including Eat24, MenuPages and Seamless. However, rivals DoorDash and Uber Eats have begun to threaten its dominance as they have become increasingly more popular.

Fake sites

All of the domains owned by Grubhub use a similar template and showcase items from the menus of actual restaurants. To make matters worse, some of the fake sites even use photos taken directly from the restaurant's official website or from other competing delivery services.

The company's scheme works as such, Grubhub buys domains that are similar to a restaurant's website and then uses their original logos along with stolen pictures of food to set up a very convincing fake site. These sites also include links where customers can place orders that actually direct them back to one of the delivery services owned by the company.

The fake sites are just another way to earn more commission from restaurants but Grubhub defended its deceptive practices in a statement emailed to New Food Economy, saying:

“Grubhub has never cybersquatted, which is identified by ICANN as ‘generally bad faith registration of another person’s trademark in a domain name.’ As a service to our restaurants, we have created microsites for them as another source of orders and to increase their online brand presence. Additionally, we have registered domains on their behalf, consistent with our restaurant contracts. We no longer provide that service and it has always been our practice to transfer the domain to the restaurant as soon as they request it.” 

Restaurant owners who are concerned that their site may have been copied can review the full list compiled by New Food Economy here (opens in new tab).

Via The Verge (opens in new tab)

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.