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Misleading Ads: ACCC Wins Appeal Against Google 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-second-thought dept.
theweatherelectric writes "As previously noted on Slashdot, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has been involved in a long-running legal battle with Google. Vijith Vazhayil of Delimiter writes, 'The Full Federal Court of Australia has ruled that Google breached the law by displaying misleading or deceptive advertisements on its search results pages. The decision follows an appeal by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), following an earlier decision in favour of Google. The ACCC had first filed the case in July 2007 in the Federal Court alleging that Google had engaged in misleading or deceptive conduct by publishing eleven advertisements on Google's search results page. The headline of each of the advertisements in question comprised a business name, product name or web address of a competitor's business not sponsored, affiliated or associated with the particular advertiser.'"
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Misleading Ads: ACCC Wins Appeal Against Google

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  • How is it illegal (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2012 @12:38AM (#39594587)

    When was Google, or search engines in general, ever legally bound to display anything except what ever they wanted to? I'm not saying Google did in fact do what the ACCC claims.. but so what?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well, they can certainly display whatever they like, so long as they charge a certain amount more or less and explain the reasons behind it, such as irrelevant ads being displayed as competition. However, I don't believe this warrants a lawsuit, but rather improved moderation. Google likes to pride itself on its advertisement system and being able to provide things for free (or cheap) with ads or full without it but with some sort of fee attached to it. Somehow they can make it work most of the time and it'

      • I think this lawsuit was just like any other modern-day lawsuit; a lawyer saying "hey, let's make some money!"

        Nice try at attacking lawyers but the ACCC is a fully funded government dept who's job is to enforce consumer rights and corporate industry regulations ie they don't care about the money.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Competition_and_Consumer_Commission

    • Re:How is it illegal (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 06, 2012 @01:14AM (#39594749)

      When was Google, or search engines in general, ever legally bound to display anything except what ever they wanted to? I'm not saying Google did in fact do what the ACCC claims.. but so what?

      Anonymous coward, you decribe google as a search engine. Google is an advertising business. Google earns 98% of it's revenue from advertising. Search is jut their product. It's like saying McDonald's is a hamburger when McDonalds is actually property and fast food franchise business. Because google is an advertising business it is regulated by the laws of the countries it operates in. It's no different to any other business in that regard. And it has properly been found guilty in this instance. We should be protected from advertising businesses trying to mislead us.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nospam007 (722110) *

        ". Search is jut their product. "

        _YOU_ are their product. They sell your eyes to their clients. The search engine is the bait to get you hooked.

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          Regardless. If I am searching on a something, it is likely that I will be interested in supporters, detractors, and alternatives. Others might feel the same way and bias the raw search results accordingly.

          That's not even getting into what Google might want to do for it's own benefit.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The relevant law is something like this - A corporation, in trade or commerce, shall not engage in conduct that is mlsleading or deceptive or likely to mislead and deceive. The test is objective - was the conduct misleading or deceptive - not was the party intending to mislead and deceive.

        An advt or search response comes up headed IBM - you click on it and end up at (say) Oracle.

        While there is a lot of case law on it, not really much to discuss, is there? Just who to prosecute (it is not a damages case) -

      • Why exactly should we be protected? Why should it not be left up to us to actually think? All of advertising is misleading in some way.
        • by scot4875 (542869)

          Why exactly should we tolerate behavior that has been deemed abusive?

          --Jeremy

          • I don't know, why? There are a lot of behaviors I deem abusive, yet they are still tolerated and often encouraged. I personally do not find comprising of a business name, product name or web address of a competitor's business not sponsored, affiliated or associated with the particular advertiser to be abusive. Why do you?
    • by commlinx (1068272) on Friday April 06, 2012 @01:19AM (#39594769) Journal

      I believe it's covered under deceptive advertising laws. Normally the ACCC does good work and while I agree with the vibe of what they're trying to achieve - disallowing a banner to display or reference one product but link to a site selling a competitive product, I think in this case they got the wrong target. I'd much rather them go after the entity that placed the ad.

      That's been the traditional approach taken with radio, television and print advertisements.

      • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Mickey06 (2611575)

        I think in this case they got the wrong target. I'd much rather them go after the entity that placed the ad.

        That's been the traditional approach taken with radio, television and print advertisements.

        No, they got exactly the correct target. Back when this case against Google started they fully allowed the practice. It is very telling that after several countries started investigations and prosecuted, Google disallowed the practice in those countries. Not globally, just where they got shit for it.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        while I agree with the vibe of what they're trying to achieve

        The vibe of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia is often enough to base an entire case on.

        • by Gwala (309968)

          That's because the whole thing is rather short and vague - and in general pretty poorly written; and a lot has had to be interpreted around it. (e.g. freedom of speech is inferred from the "vibe" of the document rather than the document itself.)

          • Well, you missed the "The Castle" reference.

            But constitutional law in Australia does not deal with basic human rights, just delegation of power between governments and the mechanism of parlimentary democracy. The constitution has been found to give the Federal Government the power to unilaterally ratify treaties, which it has with various UN charters regarding human rights.

            Basically the Australian constitution specifies business as usual for the colonial legislative assemblies, which become state legislativ

      • I think in this case they got the wrong target. I'd much rather them go after the entity that placed the ad.

        If you read the link you'll see they went after both which is, I think, entirely reasonable.

    • I'm not saying Google did in fact do what the ACCC claims.. but so what?

      Australia has advertising standards laws, in particular, that advertisements not be misleading.

      Google's adverts misled consumers into clicking competitor's advertisements when they searched for a product.

      “Google’s conduct involved the use by an advertiser of a competitor’s name as a keyword triggering an advertisement for the advertiser with a matching headline. As the Full Court said this was likely to mislead or deceive a consumer searching for information on the competitor,” ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. “The ACCC brought this appeal because it raises very important issues as to the role of search engine providers as publishers of paid content in the online age.”

    • Re:How is it illegal (Score:5, Informative)

      by bloodhawk (813939) on Friday April 06, 2012 @02:58AM (#39595147)
      Google is an advertising company, therefore google must obey the advertising laws of the associated countries. In Australia the ACCC is the agency that chases down breaches of the advertising law. You will find an equivalent in just about every country.
      • by javelinco (652113)
        Are the TV networks, magazines and newspapers required to vet their ads to this degree as well? It seems that the medium for which an ad is being transmitted is being required to authenticate those ads as being valid under the laws of that country. While I think that's rather ridiculous, as long as it is not being applied randomly, but instead in a systematic, widespread fashion, the law will at least not unfairly advantage certain types of advertisement mediums. And that's important, IMHO.
        • by bloodhawk (813939)
          Why is it ridiculous, google operate an Australian website with Australian advertising, why shouldn't they be required to obey Australian laws in those circumstances? All advertising is subject to the advertising laws regardless of medium. The ACCC tends to be one of the better agencies that applies the law equally to all, they regularly are cracking down on both local and international companies that breach the false/misleading advertising laws. They even tend to initially warn companies of potential breac
    • This isn't about search results. It's about adverts saying "Brand XYZ" that take people to "Brand ABC".
      • by TheLink (130905)
        If that's the case then I agree with the judgement. I don't want to be taken to ABC if I was expecting XYZ. Especially if it was an ad.

        I'm fine with Burger King having a Google ad that says "Burger King" when I search for McDonalds. But I am NOT fine if the ad says "McDonalds" and takes me to Burger King. That's just stupid and wrong. I do click on Google ads sometimes when they are relevant. If they start regularly putting deceptive ads, I'd make it a point to avoid them completely, or even block them.

        The
    • by Shavano (2541114)

      There are laws against false advertisements. The novelty here is charging the medium rather than the ad's creator.

      It would be like charging a radio station for airing an ad by a Ford dealer who claimed to have yhd best prices on new Chevy's.

    • by Eskarel (565631)

      A search engine can display anything they like, they are largely unregulated. An advertising business on the other hand cannot, and that is what Google actually is.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The cost of doing business internationally. Having to deal with each country's "silly" laws. Whatever they are in your field. This is why multi-nationals have TEAMS of teams of lawyers for this crap. Google just got too big too fast and didn't cross all its I(s) and J(s) and dot all of its T(s).... or maybe that was what they did do... BUT, either way... Every country has laws that don't make sense in other nations. IE: Germany- unable to deny holocaust, Thailand- you can't even hint at the King doing anyt

    • by Anonymous Coward

      The ACCC is an independent statutory authority, which means it makes decisions independently from the current government.
      Just saying...

    • by dackroyd (468778) on Friday April 06, 2012 @02:41AM (#39595105) Homepage

      If AU requires ads to not be bought by competitors, .

      Competitors are still allowed to bid on other companies trademarked names - it's just that the link can't be deceptive.

      e.g. Toyota could bid on keywords like 'ford truck' to have one of Toyota's ads come up.

      What they can't do is have the ad say 'Hot deals on Ford F-150 trucks' and then have it link through to a site that only sells Toyota trucks, as that is a deceptive advert.

      • I don't get while that's illegal. When the consumer gets to the site and sees only Toyota trucks for sale, they are likely to leave as they want to buy a Ford truck. Then Toyota has paid google for an ad click, but not gotten a purchase out of it.
        • So, at what point does it become a problem for you?

          Suppose the site your reach described Toyota trucks in loving detail, but called them Fords throughout? Suppose the vendor in question puts "Ford" logos on the trucks coming out of the Toyota factories. Suppose the consumer actually buys one of these, thinking it's a Ford. Is all of this OK? After all, the consumer evaluated the specifications, presumably found them satisfactory, and made the purchase of his own free will. Does that make the deception imma

          • The descriptions of someone trying to sell it to you shouldn't be the only thing on which you base your purchase decisions, especially with something as expensive as a truck, and especially not from a site you're not sure is legit. A quick google would show that the trucks being sold on the site are not Fords, and that they are worse than, better than, or equal to real Fords. And if I'm that determined to get a specific brand of vehicle, I'd likely know what sets it apart from other brands (it isn't just th
            • You're assuming that the fault lies entirely with the "stupid" consumer if they don't get what they want, even in the face of deliberate attempts to deceive them.

              I think this neglects a rather obvious imbalance of power between a fraudulent seller, who (presumably) stands to gain a lot from the (again, presumably) numerous known fraudulent transactions he will make, versus the consumer, for whom this is only one transaction out of many of different types, and who faces the task of proving a negative in orde

              • If people have confidence that they can believe reasonable claims in advertisements, they start to believe the unreasonable ones too. "Buy this and you can be pretty and well-liked like the celebrity in the ad!" Etc.
  • by Bitgod (2611695)
    Yeah I noticed the same stuff when I look for certain things in search. False or fake products come up as their ads.
    • Yeah I noticed the same stuff when I look for certain things in search. False or fake products come up as their ads.

      Wouldn't that be more a problem of the advertiser? Advertisers provide key words, which Google posts the advertisements on. Is it Google's fault that Widget Inc decided to add the key word "blanket" when they make electronic do-dads? I didn't RTFA, and I've been drinking beer for a few hours, but if Widget Inc says their ideal customer wants to purchase electronic do-dads, the why would Google doubt that?

      • by jesseck (942036)

        Is it Google's fault that Widget Inc decided to add the key word "blanket" when they make electronic do-dads?... but if Widget Inc says their ideal customer wants to purchase electronic do-dads, the why would Google doubt that?

        Wow, is this an indication of a problem? I can't even post a coherent paragraph, much less proofread.

      • by Kalriath (849904)

        Because as an advertising agency it's their job? Simple, really.

  • This "The Full Federal Court", what is it full of?

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