Google Slapped With 'Deceptive' Pixel 4 Lawsuit By FTC And Seven States

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Google is finding itself in a legal bind with the FTC for "deceptive endorsements" in its Pixel 4 ads wherein influencers who never used the phone were paid to endorse it. The company and radio station owner iHeartMedia have been sued and are now required to pay $9.4 million in fines.

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), between 2019 and 2020, Google (via iHeartMedia and several other radio networks) aired almost 29,000 Pixel 4 ads in ten markets. The airings had radio personalities promote the handset, making endorsements of the phone even though they had not used the device, or in most cases, having not even seen the physical device at time of airing.

While it is normal for brands to provide talking points highlighting their products, some of the script provided by Google to iHeartMedia seems blatantly misleading and controlled. Some examples were, “It’s my favorite 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.”

The FTC now wants to prevent Google and iHeartMedia from conducting future deceptive claims by enforcing fines and ensuring compliance with the FTC Commission. State attorneys in seven states (Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, and Texas) have also filed for monetary recompense in the matter to the tune of $9.4 million in penalties.

Samuel Levine, director of Bureau of Consumer Protection said, “Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules.” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey adds that, “Today’s settlement holds Google and iHeart accountable for this deceptive ad campaign and ensures compliance with state and federal law moving forward.”