Profiling the Australian Google Consumer: Implications of Search Engine Practices for Consumer Law and Policy

Journal of Consumer Policy (Forthcoming)

38 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2017

See all articles by Angela Daly

Angela Daly

University of Strathclyde - School of Law; Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT)

Amanda Scardamaglia

Swinburne University of Technology

Date Written: April 26, 2017

Abstract

Against the legal backdrop of proceedings against Google in various jurisdictions regarding the layout of its search results page, this article presents the results of a survey of a representative sample of 1014 Australian consumers, investigating their use of the Internet and specifically Google’s search engine, and the implications of these findings for consumer law and policy concerning the operation of search engines. The study is the first of its kind in Australia, despite litigation against Google in this jurisdiction for alleged misleading and deceptive conduct.

The survey findings indicate consumers have a lack of understanding about the operation and origin of the different elements of the Google search engine. In particular, the findings show particular confusion in relation to the operation and origin of Google's related vertical services. Such confusion seems to be more pronounced among older respondents and those without higher education qualifications, although the survey revealed some more surprising and unexpected results in terms of the demographics of confusion.

These findings are important for several reasons. Firstly, they identify and point to a gap in consumer knowledge about Google search that should be addressed, presenting an opportunity for consumer education in this area. Secondly, this research challenges the widely held assumption that the average (Australian) Internet user has a basic understanding about the operation and function of the Google search engine. Thirdly, the results leave open the possibility for further proceedings against Google in Australia on the basis of consumer law, the decision in Google v ACCC notwithstanding. This points to the potential for a more active role for consumer law in the digital ecosystem to address problems emanating from large and powerful platform providers such as Google than it previously has occupied.

Keywords: Google, consumer law, consumer policy, trade marks, intermediary liability, AdWords, Internet advertising, Australian law

JEL Classification: D12, D18, D80, K00, K1, K10, K2, K20, K21, K23, K29, K30, L50, L82, L86

Suggested Citation

Daly, Angela and Scardamaglia, Amanda, Profiling the Australian Google Consumer: Implications of Search Engine Practices for Consumer Law and Policy (April 26, 2017). Journal of Consumer Policy (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2958653

Angela Daly (Contact Author)

University of Strathclyde - School of Law ( email )

Lord Hope Building
John Anderson Campus 141 St. James' Rd
Glasgow G4 0LT, Scotland G4 0LT
United Kingdom

Tilburg University - Tilburg Institute for Law, Technology, and Society (TILT) ( email )

P.O.Box 90153
Prof. Cobbenhagenlaan 221
Tilburg, 5037
Netherlands

Amanda Scardamaglia

Swinburne University of Technology ( email )

Cnr Wakefield and William Streets, Hawthorn Victor
3122 Victoria, Victoria 3122
Australia

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