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ACCC vs Google

18 October, 2011
By Allison Orr

The Federal Court has dismissed the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) allegations that Google engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct, by publishing "Sponsored Links" with its search results.

The ACCC accused the online search company of contravening the Trade Practices Act by failing to properly distinguish between search results and ads or sponsored links, arguing the presentation of the two is essentially the same.

Google countered that a number of features indicate the difference between the two results, such as colour and placement. 

Federal Court judge Anthony Nicholas noted that the word "advertisement" could have been less confusing for Internet users than the current "sponsored links", but found that Google had not breached the Trade Practices Act, in a case that started in 2007.

The ACCC has now appealed the court’s decision to the Full Federal Court.   ACCC chairman Rod Sims says, "The role of search engine providers as publishers of paid content needs to be closely examined in the online age. Specifically, it is important that they are held directly accountable for misleading or deceptive paid search results" and that "it is very important that the law in this area is clarified and fully understood".

A detailed rundown of the case can be found at Allens Arthur Robinson.

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