Google Engages in Misleading, Deceptive Conduct with AdWords: Australian Court

google-malletGoogle has lost an Australian court case on appeal after the original decision in their favor was overturned today. Justice Peter Jacobson overturned the lower court’s decision and found that Google “engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in four cases.”

At issue were a set of 11 Google ads, four of which were challenged on appeal. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission filed suit over paid advertisements that misled consumers by showing competitors in search results for businesses.

In one case, users were led to believe by virtue of the ad title that they would be taken to the website, when in fact the ad was for another website called CarSales. The advertisements in question appeared in 2007. Similar misleading ads directed users to STA Travel, AlphaDog Training, and Just 4×4 magazine.

In the appeal judgment, the court noted that Google “represented, contrary to the fact, that by clicking on the headline to the advertisement, users of the website would be taken to the Honda Australia website, and thereby engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive or likely to mislead or deceive.”

Google is disappointed in the court’s decision, though they won’t have to pay a monetary fine. They were ordered to pay the ACCC’s court costs, but no financial penalty is warranted under the Trade Practices Act.

Still, said a Google spokesperson in a statement to World News Australia, “We are disappointed by the Federal Court’s decision that Google should be responsible for the content of four particular ads on its platform.”

This isn’t Google’s first dance in regards to AdWords content and their responsibility for the content therein. Last year, the search ad giant forfeited $500 million to avoid prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice over pharma ads used to sell prescription drugs illegally to American citizens. Also, a 2011 judgment in a U.S. court made clear that advertisers may bid on competitors’ names, though they may not include those trademarked names in their ad copy.

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