The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state attorneys general have settled lawsuits against Google and iHeartMedia to pay $9.4 million in penalties over featuring deceptive ads promoting the Pixel 4 smartphone.
The lawsuits were filed against Google and iHeartMedia for airing nearly 29,000 deceptive endorsements by radio personalities promoting their use of and experience with Google’s Pixel 4 phone in 2019 and 2020.
“Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules,” said Samuel Levine, Bureau of Consumer Protection Director late on Monday.
According to the FTC, in 2019, Google hired iHeartMedia and 11 other radio networks in ten major markets to have on-air personalities record and broadcast endorsements of the Pixel 4 phone.
Google provided iHeartMedia with scripts that included lines about the Pixel 4 phone like, “It’s my favourite phone camera out there, especially in low light, thanks to Night Sight Mode”, “I’ve been taking studio-like photos of everything,” and “It’s also great at helping me get stuff done, thanks to the new voice activated Google Assistant that can handle multiple tasks at once.”
However, the on-air personalities were not provided with Pixel 4s before recording and airing the majority of the ads and therefore did not own or regularly use the phones.
“Consumers expect radio advertisements to be truthful and transparent about products, not misleading with fake endorsements,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey.
The settlement holds Google and iHeart accountable for this deceptive ad campaign and ensures compliance with state and federal law moving forward,” Healey added.