Google has won a legal battle against the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) after six years in court. The ACCC had alleged that Google enaged in “misleading and deceptive” practices, when displaying ads for a company called CarSales for search results related to Honda Australia. The group believed this to be a violation of Australia’s Trade Practices Act 1974.
The Federal Court had ruled against Google last spring, but Google appealed, and on Wednesday, five judges in Australia’s High Court unanimously ruled that Google was not in violation. CNET shares a quote from the court:
“At first instance, the primary judge found that although the impugned representations were misleading and deceptive, those representations had not been made by Google,” the court said. “Ordinary and reasonable 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.”
ACCC Chairman Rod Sims had this to say:
“The ACCC took these proceedings to clarify the law relating to advertising practices in the internet age. Specifically, we considered that providers of online content should be accountable for misleading or deceptive conduct when they have significant control over what is delivered.”
“The High Court’s decision focused only on Google’s conduct. In the facts and circumstances of this case the High Court has determined that Google did not itself engage in misleading or deceptive conduct. It was not disputed in the High Court that the representations made in sponsored links by advertisers were misleading or deceptive. It remains the case that all businesses involved in placing advertisements on search engines must take care not to mislead or deceive consumers.”
As Reuters reports, a search for “Honda Australia” on Wednesday returned ads for Honda Australia’s site.
Google put to a bed a similar case with Rosetta Stone a few months ago, after three years in court. However, that did not come down to a ruling, but an agreement between Rosetta Stone and Google to dismiss the suit and collaborate to combat ads that abuse trademark.