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ACCC loses case against Google, sends warning to businesses

The Federal Court has dismissed allegations by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that Google engaged in misleading conduct by failing to adequately distinguish ads from search results.

The ACCC said that by failing to distinguish advertisements from search results, Google had breached the Trade Practices Act. Justice Nicholas didn’t agree however, finding that Google’s search results didn’t breach consumer laws, as most users appreciate that its “sponsored links” are advertisements.

Commenting on the loss, the ACCC said that since instituting proceedings against Google in 2007, it has changed the description of its advertisements on search result pages from “Sponsored Links” to “Ads.”

Justice Nicholas found in favour of one ACCC claim however, that a number of advertisements on Google’s search results page compromised a business name, product name or web address of a business not sponsored, affiliated or associated with the advertiser. One of these advertisements was from the Trading Post, with Justice Nicholas finding the publication guilty of making false or misleading representations, and engaging in misleading or deceptive conduct.

In this case, Google was to found to be “merely communicating” the Trading Post’s representations without adopting or endorsing them, as the ACCC alleged.

The Trading Post has been ordered to pay the ACCC’s costs for the action brought against it, though the ACCC will be responsible for covering costs for Google.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims took the opportunity to send a warning to businesses about adhering to advertising practices in the “internet age.”

“All businesses involved in placing advertisements on search engines must take care not to mislead or deceive consumers.”

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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