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Google Ads ‘Not Deceptive’: High Court

Google Ads ‘Not Deceptive’: High Court

The High Court today overturned a decision handed down in April last, finding Google was not responsible for the content of  ads published on behalf of advertisers.

The ACCC first took Google to court back in 2007 in a row over 11 ads or sponsored links, which the watchdog claimed were misleading, and contravened section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

In April, the Full Federal court unanimously found that Google had itself mislead consumers by displaying four ads related to Harvey World Travel, Honda, Just 4X4 Magazine and Alpha Dog, which appeared to make it difficult for consumers to differentiate between sponsored links and search results.

However, by special leave, Google appealed the decision to the High Court.

The High Court today unanimously allowed the appeal, finding “Google did not engage in conduct that was misleading or deceptive” and “did not create the sponsored links that it published or displayed. “

“Ordinary andreasonable members of the relevant class of consumers who might be affected by the alleged conduct would have understood that sponsored links were advertisements and would not have understood Google to have endorsed or to have been responsible in any meaningful way for the content of those advertisements.”

Some companies have sneakily purchased keywords, known as Google Adwords, of their competitors and linked them back to their own website, meaning a consumer searching for ‘Harvey World Travel’ would click on the link but find themselves staring at STA website instead.

Google’s search engine displays two search results “organic search results” and “sponsored links” or related ads to the search request.

“Each sponsored link was created by, or at the direction of, an advertiser, who paid Google to display ad which directed users to a web site of the advertiser’s choosing,” the High Court said.

Google always claimed it was just a publisher of content and not responsible for content of its advertisers.