Australia’s consumer watchdog has launched a world-first court action accusing internet giant Google of misleading web users by misidentifying sponsored links on its search engine.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said it wanted Google to stop publishing search results that fail to distinguish between paid advertisements and “organic” search results.
The ACCC said the case arose in 2005 when Google’s search engine listed two car dealerships from the New South Wales city of Newcastle as sponsored links, which are paid for by companies to attract Internet users.
However, the links fed through to the website of a rival to the dealerships, the classifieds magazine “Trading Post”, which competes with them for automotive sales.
“The ACCC is alleging that Google, by failing to adequately distinguish sponsored links from ‘organic’ search results, has engaged in and continues to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct,” the regulator said in a statement.
It said it was seeking declarations from the Federal Court that Google and Trading Post had breached trade practices legislation, as well as injunctions preventing Google from publishing results that did not distinguish adverts.