FTC, Seven States Sue Google and iHeartMedia for deceptive ads promoting the Pixel 4 smartphone

FTC and States Sue Google and iHeartMedia for deceptive ads promoting the Pixel 4 smartphone

The Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general announced lawsuits against Google LLC and iHeartMedia, Inc. Approximately 29,000 hoax recommendations were broadcast by radio personalities to promote their use and experience with Google’s Pixel 4 in 2019 and 2020. Proposed FTC orders and state rulings to settle the allegations bar Google and iHeartMedia from similar misrepresentations, and state rulings require them to pay $9.4 million in fines.

“Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they had never used, showing a flagrant disrespect for the rules of truth in advertising,” said Samuel Levin, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC will not stop working with our partners in the states to crack down on deceptive advertising and make sure that companies that violate the rules pay a price.”

“It makes sense for people to put more equity into first-hand experiences. Consumers expect radio advertising to be honest and transparent about products, not misleading with bogus endorsements,” said Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healy. “Today’s settlement holds Google and iHeart liable for this deceptive advertising campaign and ensures compliance with state and federal law moving forward.”

Google is a multinational technology company that specializes in internet related services and products. iHeartMedia, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is the largest radio station owner in the country, with more than 850 AM and FM radio stations and an online radio network that collectively reaches more than 245 million listeners each month.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, 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. Google provided iHeartMedia with scripts that included lines about the Pixel 4 such as, “It’s my favorite phone camera.” , especially in low light, thanks to the Night Sight mode,” “I’ve been taking studio-like pictures of everything,” and “It’s also great for helping me get things done, thanks to the new voice-activated Google Assistant that can handle multiple tasks at once.” .” However, the on-air personalities were not fitted with a Pixel 4s prior to recording and broadcasting the majority of the ads, and therefore did not own or regularly use the phones.

Agency administrative complaint Claims that corporate misrepresentation violates FTC law.

enforcement actions

The proposed orders to settle the FTC’s charges are designed to address the alleged illegal conduct of Google and iHeartMedia. Among others, they are:

  • prevent Google from misrepresenting that an authenticator owns or uses, or about their experience with, certain Products;
  • prevent iHeartMedia from misrepresenting that an Endorser owns or uses, or about their experience with, any consumer product or service;
  • Requiring Google and iHeartMedia to distribute the application to specific people, submit compliance reports to the commission, and maintain records to allow the FTC to ensure compliance.

This action builds on the FTC’s work to address false testimonials, fake reviews, and other deceptive endorsements, including for an online fashion retailer. Fashion Nova for its past practice of suppressing negative reviewsAnd the He put more than 700 marketers under observation About false comments and other misleading endorsements on which you are seeking public comment Suggested updates to authentication directoriesand issuance of work guidance on Online review management for marketers And the platforms.

The commission’s vote on issuing the administrative complaint and accepting the proposed consent agreements was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register soon. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, after which the committee will decide whether to make the proposed approval orders final. Instructions for submitting comments will appear in the posted notice. Comments must be received 30 days after they are posted in the Federal Register. Once processed, comments will be posted to the regulations.

UNHCR appreciates the support of the Attorney General’s offices in the following states to help them secure financial relief in this matter: Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.

note: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that a law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that the suit is in the public interest. When the commission issues an approval order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order could result in a civil penalty of up to $46,517.

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