Skip to comments.Google faces landmark lawsuit over sponsored links
Posted on 07/12/2007 2:31:10 PM PDT by Kaslin
A consumer watchdog is taking legal action against Google over the way it sells and displays its sponsored links, in a case that could "send shudders down the industry".
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said that it believed its action, which named Google Inc and Google subsidiaries in Ireland and Australia as defendants, was “the first to seek legal clarification of Google’s conduct from a trade practices perspective".
The case stems from 2005 when Trading Post, an Australian classified ads magazine, took out sponsored links in the name of two car dealerships from Newcastle, New South Wales. People clicking on the names of the dealerships found themselves on Trading Post’s website.
The ACCC dropped a case against Trading Post when the publication said it would stop using its competitors’ names in Google sponsored links. However, the watchdog now says that Google “engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct” by allowing Trading Post to buy ads in the name of the car dealerships.
In addition the ACCC is also claiming that the way Google displays its links is misleading.
On Google’s search results page, sponsored links appear in a coloured panel at the top of the page, and in a narrow column on the right-hand side of the page. Both areas include a small heading identifying the results as sponsored.
Companies and organisations can pay to get their results featured in these areas. In the main section of the page, results are determined by Google’s celebrated algorithm, which attempts to calculate the relevance and popularity of a page using a range of criteria including the number of inbound links to each page.
“Google, by failing to adequately distinguish sponsored links from ‘organic’ search results, has engaged and continues to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct,” the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement.
Google Australia described the lawsuit as “an attack on all search engines” and said that it would contest it.
Shara Evans, head of the IT consultancy Market Clarity, said the case would have far-reaching implications if the court found that a search engine was responsible for monitoring everything that advertisers paid to put up as sponsored links.
“What would have a real impact is if Google had to take a policing role into the content of the advertisers,” she said. “That, I think, would send real shudders down the industry.”
Google has faced a stream of lawsuits from companies alleging that rivals have bought sponsored links triggered by their trademarked words or phrases. In one continuing case, American Blind & Wallpaper Factory is suing Google because searches for the company brought up sponsored links bought by its competitors.
Google has won similar cases in US federal courts brought by Geico, a car insurance company, and Rescue.com, an IT support company. Last year in France, Google lost a case in which the fashion company accused the company of running links to counterfeit goods alongside legitimate results.
I hope they bankrupt the company.
Google has been nearly worthless ever since they started burying real information pages deep in advertising links, sidebars and missing excerpts.
One quote claims that "Google, by failing to adequately distinguish sponsored links from organic search results, has engaged and continues to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct," the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement. If that's the suit, it doesn't have a leg to stand on. First, sponsored ads are pretty easy to distinguish from organic on Google. Even if someone could argue the distinctiion isn't clear to everyone, is a court going to determine the cognitive design required to make websites and software deliver as advertised to their users? Boondoggle.
Another sentence describes how Google has faced a stream of lawsuits from companies alleging that rivals have bought sponsored links triggered by their trademarked words or phrases. If the lawsuit claims that only a trademark or brand owner can buy that search keyword, it will prove unworkable. The fact of the matter is that successful brand names and trademarks quickly become generic terms in the popular language. Think of "band-aid" or "post-it" or "vaseline" or "q-tip" or "rollerblade" - each is actually a registered trademark, but it's completely unreasonable to claim that every use of the word "post-it" in everyday activities can be contolled by 3M. (BTW, it is 3M's official stance that any time a customer asks for "post-its" either in person in a store, or over the phone for mail-order, or via any search engine, the retailer/distributor is FORBIDDEN from directing the customer to anything except Post-It brand products, on risk of legal action. Nice try guys, but I don't think so)
And another sentence claims that the watchdog now says that Google "engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct" by allowing Trading Post to buy ads in the name of the car dealerships. It's a little more reasonable to claim that businesses shouldn't advertise using their competitor's name. However, is it the job of a search engine to police that? Google & others can easily claim that the burden of doing so would be so huge as to effectively cripple their business model.
You nailed that for sure.
Google has been nearly worthless ever since they started burying real information pages deep in advertising links, sidebars and missing excerpts.A rather adamant assertion without support (so far); care to give an example?
Dammit _Jim! I think I gotta side with you on this one.
I hate that!
Well, we’ll just have to agree that this time we agree that we have agreed on this particular subject and that we also agree that at some future point in time we will both agree that we will disagree on a subject of unknown subject ...
Works for me...
Works for me...You say that now ... but what about 'in the morning', next week or the month after that?
Will we still be 'exchanging pleasantries'?
On an uninhibited first-name basis?
Wildly expressing thought and an occasional mood-expression?
You two need to get a room....mach schnell!
I was wondering ... about the ‘tiel that visits - does it ever get close?
My +20 yr old ‘tiel lasted until last year before the election; don’t ever let anybody tell you that an ‘old bird’ can’t be taught new tricks!
It never did, nor did it dine on the succulence that Google told me to present; haven't seen it for a year, so should probably delete that portion of the homepage.
The Capuchine, however, seems quite comfortable around here; remains very approachable - altho it may be going "wild" since we've seen it fluttering around with the doves. Maybe it's prepping for that interracial thingie.
It never did, nor did it dine on the succulence that Google told meNow, in all honesty, I have to ask, did Google really 'tell' you ... or did they have a link to a 3rd party website?
I'm sorry to hear that little bird is no longer visiting. I tied to rescue one from a tree one cold January morning a year ago; next time I will simply grab the bird around the body and wings instead of trying to coax it onto my index finger (it few off using the finger approach, although I am bound to get bitten if I just 'grab' it with a bare hand)!
Being is as this is California, we of course have "wild bird sanctuaries" (taxpayer funded, of course...) even in such outlying areas as Indio.
I called them about the pigeon, and they concurred with your advice - either grab, toss a towel over it, or just "enjoy watching it until a Redtail Hawk gets it".
Our phocking tax dollars at work.
So for those who ‘asserted without cite’ have yet failed to come forward with any accounts, anecdotal or otherwise ...
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