Australian High Court says Google is not responsible for search result ads

The landmark decision found that Google did not engage in misleading or deceptive conduct

Things are looking up Down Under for Google. Australia’s High Court issued a landmark ruling on Wednesday in favor of the company, unanimously finding that its sponsored links were not misleading, and that it was not responsible for what its advertisements said.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission had accused Google of misleading and deceptive conduct related to advertisements, based on search results in which a search for Honda Australia displayed a paid advertisement for CarSales, one of Honda’s competitors. Google claimed that it was merely a channel for the advertisements, not a publisher, and wasn’t responsible for them.

While a lower court initially ordered Google to set up a compliance program to keep misleading advertisements off of its search results, the High Court overturned that ruling, writing "Ordinary and reasonable users of the Google search engine would have understood that the representations conveyed by the sponsored links were those of the advertisers, and would not have concluded that Google adopted or endorsed the representations."

Though this ruling only applies to Australia, it sets the stage for a worldwide debate on the issue, as Google has faced similar challenges in other countries. In the U.S., the company settled a dispute with Rosetta Stone in November 2012, in which the language software company accused Google of selling its trademarks to third-party advertisers to use as search keywords.

Read more at Thomson Reuters.

 

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