Google wins landmark advertising case in Australia

CANBERRA Tue Feb 5, 2013 8:33pm EST

CANBERRA Feb 6 (Reuters) - Global search engine Google Inc won a landmark court case in Australia on Wednesday when the country's High Court ruled the Internet giant was not responsible for messages conveyed by paid advertisers on its site.

The finding ends a six-year legal battle between Google and Australia's consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), which accused Google of engaging in misleading and deceptive conduct over paid advertisements.

The case related to search results in 2006 and 2007, where a search for Honda Australia would show a paid advertisement for a Honda competitor, CarSales. The ACCC said the ads were deceptive, as they suggested CarSales was linked to Honda Motor Co Ltd.

But in a unanimous finding, five judges of Australia's High Court ruled in favour of Google, overturning a ruling from the Federal Court. The lower court had ordered Google to set up a compliance programme to make sure paid advertisements on its search engine were not misleading.

The five High Court judges said Google did not create the sponsored links and the company was not responsible for messages in the links.

"Ordinary and reasonable users of the Google search engine would have understood that the representations conveyed by the sponsored links were those of the advertisers, and would not have concluded that Google adopted or endorsed the representations," the court said.

Google issued a brief statement saying it welcomed the decision.

A Google search for Honda Australia on Wednesday displayed paid ads for Honda Australia's website.

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