A court ruling in Australia has decided Google is guilty of "misleading and deceptive" conduct. The court made their decision on Wednesday.
The case has been in the legal system since 2007, and the issue in question was if a search engine user saw a sponsored link and decided to click, the link did not lead to the Web destination it suggested on Google Australia's website.
PC Magazine gave an example, "If a user searched for "iPad," for example, the sponsored link would say "Apple iPad," but if someone clicked on it, it might take them to the website for Amazon's rival Kindle Fire tablet."
Initially, Google was found not at fault, and an appeal was made by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), and yesterday the Full Federal Court ruled in favor of the ACCC.
In last year's ruling by a lower court, Google was determined not to be at fault because Google didn't "make" the representations in the ads, PC Magazine reported. ACCC appealed in Oct. 2011 indicating Google breached section 52 of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
In the appeal the Full Court determined since Google "created the message which it presents," the original ruling was overturned. In accordance with this, the court found the search engine giant responsible for the deceptive results given to the search engine user.
"The enquiry is made of Google and it is Google's response which is misleading," the court said. "Although the key words are selected by the advertiser, perhaps with input by Google, what is critical to the process is the triggering of the link by Google using its algorithms."
ACCC said it is pleased with the finding because it shows Google, and other search engine companies, accountability will be held for paid search results which are misleading to web users.
"Google's conduct involved the use by an advertiser of a competitor's name as a keyword triggering an advertisement for the advertiser with a matching headline," ACCC chairman Rod Sims said in a statement. "As the Full Court said this was likely to mislead or deceive a consumer searching for information on the competitor."
Google is reportedly not happy with the court's decision and is considering its options in wake of this finding the company has indicated it finds disappointing.
"Google AdWords is an ads hosting platform, and we believe that advertisers should be responsible for the ads they create on the AdWords platform," Google said in a statement (courtesy of PC Magazine).
"We're committed to providing an advertising platform that benefits both advertisers and users. We investigate complaints about violations of our policies and terms and conditions, and if we are notified of an ad violating our terms and conditions we will remove it. We are currently reviewing our options in light of the court's decision."
As a part of the decision, Google will have to pay ACCC's appeal costs and also put into place a consumer law compliance program.