The Federal Court has dismissed allegations by the ACCC that Google engaged in practices likely to mislead consumers. The ACCC alleged that by failing to adequately distinguish advertisements from search results, Google had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct.
The ACCC's case against Google had two aspects. The first was that Google failed to sufficiently distinguish sponsored links or advertisements from organic search results. The second related to certain advertisers using their competitors' names in their advertisements.
As to the first limb, Justice Nicholas held that the presentation of Google's search results did not breach consumer law as most users would have appreciated that "sponsored links" were in fact advertisements. As to the second limb, Justice Nicholas found that the publication of a number of advertisements on Google's search results page in which the headline of the advertisement comprised the business name, product name or web address of a business not sponsored, affiliated or associated with the advertiser was misleading or deceptive. However, he held that Google was not responsible for the content of the advertisements and representations they conveyed.
Trading Post, was held responsible for some of the advertisements, and was found to have made false or misleading representations and engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct.
See the G+T publication, Google wins alleged misleading advertising case.
Postscript: The ACCC has lodged an appeal against the Court's findings in relation to a number of the advertisements appearing on Google's website.