After accusing Google of misleading web users with its money-making sponsored links, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has been accused of saying things that don't make sense. The ACCC showed up in Australian federal court yesterday, two months after bringing legal action against Google, and Judge James …
"Of course, anyone who visits Google after fifteen years stranded on a desert island "
Oh, you mean an Australian!
(Gets asbestos coat and leaves.)
ACCC - Protector of Cretins?
"The ACCC claims that the search giant fails to properly distinguish between "organic" search results and advertising results, and it's annoyed that Trading Post was able to attract customers using sponsored links that included the names of two competing dealerships, Kloster Ford and Charlestown Toyota."
Frankly, any punter who can't tell the difference between sponsored links and "organic" search results on a Google search result page whould not have been allowed out of The Home without supervision.
I would say the judge in this case is no so much confused, as intelligent; he's trying to keep the bureaucrats too busy to do any other harm for a month.
...*is* a little vague. I understand it, and so do you, but we are immensely intelligent and good-looking individuals.
But would your mum understand it? Or your grandad?
Surely the word "sponsor" in popular parlance is usually only associated with charity acts - as in "sponsored swim", "will you sponsor me for cancer research?", etc.
In that context, what's a "sponsored link"?!
@Joe - Sponsored Link
There probably is a case to be answered. The phrase "sponsored link" would probably not translate to "paid advertisement" or similar for many people - the people the ACCC are there to protect. And the colouring of the box is not exactly bright and is, as claimed by the ACCC, difficult to see on some displays at certain angles.
I'd doubt that was a coincidence :-)
But the ACCC tends to get overly complex with things and the court has said - your filing has turned something very simple into something incredibly complex. I agree that the Judge gets it but he probably wants to see the complaint explained in a straightforward manner.
Once they do that, it will be very interesting to see how the way Google communicates these links fits with the Trade Practices Act's definition of "misleading or deceptive" or "likely to mislead or deceive" which will be the bit of legislation the ACCC would be using here (this is probably the main difference between this and the US cases where the companies themselves have sued of copyright and trademark and other obscure reasons not to have searches of their name linked to other people). Here, it's a regulatory body saying it's potentially misleading which, for me, is a far more tenable argument (although I'm not sure which side of the debate I would fall).
Misleading sponsored links
A lot of people seem to think that just because Google declares the "sponsored links" as such, that is the end of the matter - but it actually misses the key point, whcih is about "misleading behaviour". At the risk being accused of self-plagirisation, I will repeat the text of a comment I made in response to the original story back in July:
The real issue is that the "sponsored links" refrreed to in the court case appeared to point you to one site (which appeared to correlate to the name you were looking for), but actually took you to a competitor’s site - that sounds "misleading" to me.
"The ACCC case stems from Google results that came up when searching for Kloster Ford and Charlestown Toyota in 2005. Those business names appeared in the headline for a link to the Trading Post, a competitor for car sales."
Google Australia may well have changed their practices now - I don't know - but the case relates to past behaviour, which certainly seems to have been a bit "dodgy" on the face of the evidence.
ACCC has its uses
The ACCC is the mob responsible for making region encoding on DVDs illegal, and is also the same group that got modchipping in Australia removed from the 'naughty naughty' list.
You may disagree with certain ACC vs Google stuff, but they do have a habit of fighting the hard fight - and winning.
Pretty misleadfing alright....
I put Charlestown Toyota into Google and some of the results weren't from Charlestown Toyota in Australia at all!!! Some were even from Charlestown Toyota Rhode Island!! I could have bought a car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, all because of Googles irresponible attitude!!
Fortunately, being a Kiwi, I'm harder to confuse than our Aussie cousins.
Calling the Trading Post a "car dealer" is like calling el Reg a "hardware site". Technically correct but not a very accurate description. The Trading Post is renown as a purveyor of classified advertising.
Having been involved in marketing at all levels it has for some time it has amused me how Google have managed to get away with this for some time now. Over the last couple of years the relevance of searches have seriously went down hill, I think if they renamed it the Google Corporate Search Engine it would be more accurate.
I still use it on occassion but like a few friends have found alternatives (find your own this isn't a free advert attempt). I consider the primary purpose of legislation to protect those who 'are not in the know'. Marketing does provide the means to sustaining organisations but ethical standards have been nothing more than a buzzword for some time now. I think its about time standards were set - if google wants to use an organisations brand then they are entitled to a share of that profit - very simple.
Desert Island Inhabitants
//Of course, anyone who visits Google after fifteen years stranded on a desert island may not understand the term "sponsored link." //
If I'd been on a deserted island for 15 years (being Northern Hemispheric, I'd no doubt joke here about Prince Edward Island more likely then Oz), I think I'd think I'd have more problems with the term 'world wide web'.
Trading Post was incorrectly referred to as a car dealership. Story corrected,
re: "Sponsored link"...
"And now a word from our sponsors" was a common euphemism for advertising on radio and TV shows back in the day. I have no doubt my grandmother could make the connection.
One that finances a project or an event carried out by another person or group, especially a business enterprise that pays for radio or television programming in return for advertising time.
Umm... thats pretty damn clear