Australia Takes Google to Court Over Sponsored Links

Jul 13, 2007 • 10:32 am | comments (1) by twitter | Filed Under Google AdWords

The forum community is buzzing about Australia's recent decision to sue Google over deceptive search ads.

WebmasterWorld goes into the suit in more detail, citing a Sydney Morning Herald news article:

The ACCC (Australian Competition and Consumer Commission) 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.

The question is: why Google? They specifically distinguish their sponsored results from organic listings. Some people think it's an issue that can be possibly a problem for visually impaired users.

But more people see that it's a problem of trademark bidding, which is a definite problem that we've covered.

DigitalPoint Forums and Search Engine Watch Forums members point out that the ACCC is looking for "injunctions restraining Google from publishing sponsored links of advertisers representing an association, sponsorship or affiliation where one does not exist." At Search Engine Watch, Chris_D asks how Google is possibly supposed to know about these sponsorships or affiliations. I agree; whose responsibility is it? There are ways to file complaints when competitors bid on your trademarks.

Forum discussion continues at WebmasterWorld, DigitalPoint Forums, and Search Engine Watch Forums.

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Joe O'Brien

07/16/2007 05:25 am

I think trademark bidding is a dirty trick if you list the trademarked term in the your ad copy. Targeting branded search makes sense to me because consumers may want to compare their options and may therefore be willing to "turn the corner" of their own accord. For companies like Trading Post (owned by Yellow Pages) and RVPoint (promoted as part of the NineMSN network) to list trademarked names of companies they do not represent (and in fact promote competitors of these businesses) just stinks of arrogance. It's an abuse of small business ignorance of how Adwords works. An exact match title can improve ad click-throughs but this type of behaviour is pure deception. If you're selling "Yellow Widgets" and targeting searches for "Blue Widgets" you should outline the benefits of "Yellow Widgets" in your ad copy - not say "Get your Blue Widgets here" and then argue the merits of "Yellow Widgets" on your landing page. I had to file a trademark infringement complaint against RVPoint (as well as an independently owned MFA spam site) last year and Google promptly blocked the infringing ads. Google isn't to blame here as it is the trademark holder's responsibility to monitor their own brand assets. Perhaps the ACCC should hold the arrogant corporations and their "WTF are you going to do about it?" mentality to task instead.

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