Google Settles FTC, Seven-State Lawsuits Over Pixel 4 ‘Deceptive’ Ads

In the context: Google is probably already used to lawsuits, although they usually involve antitrust complaints. But the FTC and seven-state allegations stem from a Pixel 4 ad a few years ago that allegedly was “deceptive” because it featured influencers praising the phone despite not owning or using it. .

Google and iHeartMedia hit hard by lawsuits from the Federal Trade Commission and state attorneys general over 29,000 “deceptive” endorsements from radio hosts touting their use and experience with the Google Pixel 4 phone in 2019 and 2020.

Consumer Protection Bureau director Samuel Levin said Google and iHeartMedia were paying influencers to promote the phone, a product they never used. Some of the Google-provided scripts read by the characters in the ad included lines such as “This is my favorite phone camera, especially in low light thanks to the night vision mode” and “I took studio photos of everything.” This is despite the fact that they were not given a Pixel 4 before most of the commercials were recorded and aired.

The ad was shown in ten major markets, but it’s not clear how many people heard it. Levine called them “a blatant disregard for the rules of truth in advertising.”

The FTC’s proposed settlement orders include a ban on Google and iHeartMedia from misrepresenting an endorser as someone who owned, used, or had experience with a particular product. The states — Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Texas — are also requiring companies to pay $9.4 million in fines.

Google said it was happy to settle the case, although it only settled with six of the seven states. “We take compliance with advertising laws seriously and we have processes in place to ensure we comply with relevant regulations and industry standards,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Reuters.

None of this will have much of an impact on Google’s parent company Alphabet, which is expected to bring in more than $282 billion in revenue this year. But it could damage its public image and that of future Pixel phones. It can also lead to consumers believing (even) less in the honesty of the advertisement.

Google is far from the first tech giant to face lawsuits over allegedly misleading ads. An Australian watchdog sued Samsung in 2019 over claims that the company lied about the water resistance of its Galaxy phones. There’s also Apple, which has been dealing with similar lawsuits for years, including this one in 2012 over Siri’s abilities as a personal assistant.

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