You know those annoying sponsored links that appear every time you search for something on Google? What about them? Well, these sponsored links have been the subject of a five year argument between the ACCC and Google.

It all began when someone typed ‘Harvey World Travel’ into Google. A sponsored link popped up which, when clicked, led that person to the website of STA Travel. Now, STA Travel isn’t the only advertiser to have bought AdWords containing the name of its competitor. It’s been quite a common trick employed by some businesses to attract traffic. Is it annoying? Yep. Is it misleading and illegal? Yep, just not by Google. But the ACCC had thought otherwise...

Yesterday, the High Court unanimously overturned a decision of the Full Federal Court while stating emphatically that Google doesn’t engage in misleading conduct by displaying sponsored links containing misleading representations created by advertisers. If this sounds familiar, it’s because these laws are already established and have applied to television, newspapers and radio stations for yonks. Now we just know that internet platforms are no different from any other advertising medium.

Looks like online auction and classified sites, as well as blog and bulletin board owners can breathe a little easier. The effect of the High Court’s decision is that they will generally not be liable when an advertiser posts misleading advertising or content on their website.