The Trading Post, which publishes classified advertising in print and online, has amended its marketing practices to stop linking its autotrader website to the name of a competitor through a sponsored link with an internet search engine.
"The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission received a complaint from Stickybeek Australia Pty Ltd alleging that the Trading Post was misleading internet users into believing it was associated with Stickybeek's business", ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel said today. "Stickybeek is based in the Hunter region of New South Wales and operates a website used by businesses in the region for advertising, including classified advertising by local car dealers.
"Stickybeek alleged the Trading Post had used a sponsored link to the Stickybeek name on the Google website to ensure that a link to the Trading Post's autotrader website appeared adjacent to the search results when internet users entered Stickybeek as a search term.
"By buying sponsored links from Google to key words, a business can ensure that internet users are provided with a link to its website when users enter those words into the Google search engine.
"The ACCC wrote to the Trading Post expressing concern that its Google sponsored link to Stickybeek was potentially misleading as internet users might mistakenly believe that its autotrader website was affiliated with Stickybeek's business. Of particular concern was the placement of the sponsored link under the word Stickybeek adjacent to the Google search results.
"The ACCC believed the Trading Post's conduct may have contravened sections 52 and 53(d) of the Trade Practices Act. Section 52 prohibits misleading or deceptive conduct and section 53(d) provides that a company must not represent that it has a sponsorship, approval or affiliation it does not have.
"The Trading Post agreed to stop using competitors' names and trademarks in sponsored links on the internet, although it did not admit that its conduct was misleading under the Act.
"With the internet increasing in importance as a medium for businesses to advertise and market their goods and services, the ACCC is focused on ensuring the internet is not misused to mislead or deceive consumers.
"The consumer protection provisions of the Act apply equally to marketing over the internet as they do to advertising by more traditional means such as television or newspapers. This matter highlights the need for business to remain vigilant when taking advantage of new marketing opportunities offered by the internet that care is taken to avoid potentially misleading consumers".