Recently the Australian Federal Court overturned a lower court’s decision in finding that Google was not responsible for advertisers breaches of Australia’s Trade Practices Act. On appeal, the Court found Google liable in breach of trade law for hosting misleading and deceptive advertisements through the Adwords Platform. This ruling reinforces the responsibility of hosts to their advertisers content.
The ruling was based on four ads which had appeared on the Google Australia website. Advertisers had used the names of competitors as keywords to trigger their own ads appearing. The court found this was likely to mislead individuals who were searching for information regarding those competitors.
From what I gather, the direct accountability for misleading or deceptive ads hosted on the platform lies with Google. This is relevant to paid search results where Google as the ad provider had staff and technology which helped advertisers “take full advantage of the system” according to ACCC Chairman Ron Sims. The involvement of Google is found in its technology, Google’s response is misleading, though the keywords are selected by the advertiser, “what is critical to the process is the triggering of the link by Google using its algorithms” the Court said.
Pending Google’s appeal in the High Court, there appears to be a certain amount of insulation for advertisers using the Adwords platform and the open use of branded keywords. We shall see what amendments Google makes. We have not heard the end of this.