Google wins Australian fair trading court case

Regulatory body fails to establish search engine misled customers

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has lost a case it took against Google alleging the search giant breached Australian trade practices law.

The case centred on whether Google misled consumers by disguising ads as search results.

The ACC alleged Google failed to adequately distinguish paid ads from genuine search results, by flagging the paid content as “sponsored links” but not doing more to make it clear it was paid content.

The Australian Federal Court disagreed, ruling in favour of Google.

Judge John Nicholas said “"I do not consider that people would be likely to fail to notice the caption 'sponsored links' when and where it appears on the results page.

"While a person using a search engine ... for the first time might be confused by the initial experience, this response is likely to be very short-lived."

The case arose out of alleged deceptive conduct by Australian company Trading Post, which is a Google advertiser.

The Australian claims the case was the first in the world in which a regulatory body took a search engine to Court for allegedly breaching trade practices law.

The full text of the judgment can be found here.

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