ACCC v. Google

The ACCC has taken action against Google regarding sponsored links going to sites unrelated to the consumer’s search. Apparently, the:

the business names “Kloster Ford” and “Charlestown Toyota” appeared in the title of Google sponsored links to Trading Post’s website. Kloster Ford and Charlestown Toyota are Newcastle car dealerships who compete against Trading Post in automotive sales.

Seems strange. Allegedly, you did some search. Up came a “Trading Post” sponsored link with competitors in the title. You clicked on it and went to the Trading Post website.

With billions of sponsored searches, it is hard to know what Google are supposed to do here. Are the ACCC going to go after advertisers who place ads in places that consumers might not expect them? Does publication of an ad mean agreement with the quality of its content? If so, did the ACCC sue TV stations for those Ian Turpie ads? Seems to me the culprit is the advertiser not the publisher.

The question I have is will the ACCC go after searches like this one for “Melbourne Business School.” The first sponsored link was to the AGSM for a Melbourne MBA. Or this one for “ACCC” with some credit repair site. Consumers could easily be confused by those ones.

3 thoughts on “ACCC v. Google”

  1. The links you give for the ACCC and MBS both go to the ACCC and MBS respectively. Isn’t the problem with the Kloster Ford and Charlestown Toyota links that they actually go to the Trading Post, which strikes me as pretty damn misleading.

    The only interesting question is whether Google is responsible for publishing misleading ads bought by (presumably) the Trading Post. I don’t know the law on responsibility for breaches of s52 of the TPA, but presumably the ACCC’s argument will be that google either knew or should have known about the misleading nature of the ads.

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  2. Sorry, above I should have said that the links for the AGSM and Credit Repair Australia go to the AGSM and Credit Repair Australia, respectively.

    (To further clarify, the ACCC’s problem isn’t with google searches for one product producing clearly signposted links to a competitor. Rather, it for hypertext links supplied by google and implying that they concern one competitor going to a different one.)

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