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Google's search engine ads found to be misleading or deceptive - on appeal

posted Apr 3, 2012, 5:35 PM by Austin Carwardine   [ updated Jul 4, 2012, 5:39 PM ]
On 3 April 2012, the Full Court of the Federal Court found that Google had engaged in conduct that was misleading or deceptive, or likely to mislead or deceive, in breach of section 52 of the Trade Practices Act (now section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law).  The relevant conduct involved Google's AdWords service, where an advertiser used a competitor's name as a Google search keyword triggering an advertisement for the advertiser.  In 2011, the primary judge found that Google had not engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct in relation to four advertisements published between 2006 and 2008, but this decision was appealed by the ACCC to the Full Court.  

The Full Court decided that "Google is in fact much more than a mere conduit... It is Google's technology which creates that which is displayed... the enquiry is made of Google and it is Google's response which is misleading."  Clearly, this decision has serious implications for all internet search engine firms and, more widely, for any internet service or website that publishes advertisements alongside search results and for third party hosting platforms.

On 22 June 2012, the High Court granted Google special leave to appeal against the decision of the Full Court of the Federal Court.

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