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Friday, July 13, 2007

Google sued for deceptive advertising practices involving autos

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is suing Google for for deceptive advertising involving a couple of auto dealers and an auto classified site.

The ACCC is also alleging that Google, by causing the Kloster Ford and Charlestown Toyota links to be published on its website, engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct in breach of section 52 of the Act.

Further, the ACCC is alleging that Google, by failing to adequately distinguish sponsored links from “organic” search results, has engaged and continues to engage in misleading and deceptive conduct in breach of section 52 of the Act.

It appears that the two car dealers referenced were involved with a company called Trading Post which offers listing services to car dealers. Trading Post bought Google AdWords keywords that contained the names of the referenced dealerships. This topic has come up a few times on some of the blogs that I read. I know that DealerRefresh wrote an entry about this topic and a discussion continued about the ethical concerns.

This suit gets a little confusing, but it seems like the two dealers compete with Trading Post for automobile sales, but also list their vehicles on the Trading Post site. Trading Post actually has a listing page for one of the dealerships.

So it seems that Australia has some issues with a company bidding on keywords that contain business names (probably trademarked) and diverting a consumer that clicked on a paid listing to someone else's site. It will be interesting to see what happens to this case.

I think it will be virtually impossible for Google to monitor all of the advertising listings in AdWords. One of the benefits of AdWords is the simplicity and self-service nature of advertising. It is pretty simple for anyone to setup AdWords and run their own advertising campaign.

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