Google Legal Victory in Australia Could Set Worldwide Precedent

In a decision that could have broader implications worldwide, the company was found to not be legally liable for misleading advertisements posted by third parties on its service.

Google may be a major part of life for many, but years after the fact, key elements of its business are still under legal scrutiny in many countries.

Others will definitely be looking at this ruling. Google is a worldwide business. This is something of a first, and it does add some clarity for the industry.

In Australia, for example, the company just won a major case, which validates its business model. More details:

The case: In 2007, Google was pulled into a lawsuit by the country’s consumer watchdog, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). The group pointed out that a series of ads on search results for Honda Australia brought up a paid advertisement for one of Honda’s competitors. ACCC said these ads were deceptive since  they suggested the competitor  was directly related to Honda. Google’s argument was that it was merely a conduit and bore no responsibility for the content distributed.

The results: On Wednesday, Australia’s High Court ruled in favor of Google in the decision, arguing that “Google did not create the sponsored links that it published or displayed.” The decision also emphasized that they were not deceptive and that users could tell the difference between normal links and advertising. “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 impact: The country’s Internet Industry Association argues that the decision could have a huge impact beyond Australia’s borders. “Others will definitely be looking at this ruling. Google is a worldwide business. This is something of a first, and it does add some clarity for the industry,” the group’s Peter Lee explained to Reuters. Greg Sterling of Search Engine Land, meanwhile, points out that the decision puts Australian law on the same level as U.S. law. As for within Australia’s borders, lawyer John Swinson of King & Wood Mallesons told Lawyers Weekly that the move “keeps Google in business” in the country. ACCC plans to analyze the case and see if it has impact beyond the current case.

Google’s international troubles aren’t unique to Australia—in recent months, it has faced business conflicts in France and Brazil, among other countries. And in the United States, Google was largely seen as victorious in a major antitrust settlement.

(Photo by gruntzooki/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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