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You’re Guilty, Google! Ads “Deceptive” Says Judge

A three judge panel at Sydney’s Federal Court has found Google guilty of publishing “misleading or deceptive” ads on its website between March 2006 – July 2007, earlier today, reports Fairfax Media.

The case follows a long standing legal row between the competition watchdog, ACCC, and Google, which the watchdog lost following a ruling by the Federal Court last year and involved a series of cases dating back to 2007.

However, despite this, the ACCC battled on against the Internet stalwart on appeal and eventually won out following the decision handed down by Justice Peter Jacobson, whom overturned the original decision, Justice Bruce Thomas Lander and Chief Justice Patrick Anthony Keane, today.

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Google “engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead,” the court judgement readThe offending ads were related to Harvey World Travel, Honda, Just 4X4 Magazine and Alpha Dog and appeared to make it difficult for consumers to differentiate between sponsored links and search results.

The ads mislead as they brought web surfers to places they did not want to go. One example of the “deceptive” ad’s cited in court was for Harvey World Travel that redirected users to STA travel website, while others included an ad for Honda.com.au which, when clicked, brought consumers to Carsales.com.

All of this contravened the Trade Practices Act. The ruling also ordered Google to “implement a compliance program” and pay legal costs to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission.

Google said it was disappointed by today’s ruling, and argued it cannot be held responsible for content on its AdWords platform.

“We are disappointed by the Federal Court’s decision that Google should be responsible for the content of four particular ads on its platform,” a spokesman said.

“Google AdWords is an ads hosting platform and we believe that advertisers should be responsible for the ads they create on the AdWords platform.”

The giant did not indicate whether or not it would appeal but said it  is “reviewing our options in light of the court’s decision.”