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Google wins legal battle with ACCC

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SYDNEY, Feb 6 AAP

February 06 2013, 3:02PM

Internet search giant Google has won a legal battle with the competition watchdog over claims it engaged in misleading or deceptive advertising.

The High Court on Wednesday unanimously ruled in favour of Google's appeal against an earlier ruling by the Federal Court that it had engaged in deceptive conduct that contravened the Trade Practices Act.

The High Court ruling ends a five-year battle between Google and the ACCC, although the watchdog said it would review the latest judgement to understand whether it has broader ramifications.

Action was launched against Google in 2007, with the ACCC alleging it had engaged in misleading conduct by displaying particular sponsored links alongside search results.

The advertisements in question involved the use of the name of car dealerships that were actually unrelated to the company that had paid for the sponsored links.

When users clicked on the ads, they were in fact directed to a competitor's website.

The full bench of the Federal Court had upheld the ACCC's claim in April 2012, but Google appealed to the High Court.

The High Court has ruled Google did not create the sponsored links it published or displayed, and users would have understood that the representations conveyed by the sponsored links were those of the advertisers, not Google.

"Accordingly, Google did not engage in conduct that was misleading or deceptive," the High Court said in a summary of its decision.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims said the commission had considered that providers of online content should be accountable for misleading or deceptive conduct when they have control over their sites.

"It remains the case that all businesses involved in placing advertisements on search engines must take care not to mislead or deceive consumers," he said in a statement.