Google and iHeartMedia, which owns radio stations across the country, have settled charges that they aired deceptive radio ads touting Google's Pixel 4 smartphone.
Besides the settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the companies will pay about $9.4 million in penalties to states, including Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Texas.
“Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules,” said FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine.
The case involves nearly 29,000 first-person endorsements by iHeart radio personalities promoting their experience with the Pixel 4 in 2019 and 2020.
The problem with the endorsements? The radio personalities were just reading from a script provided to them and not truthfully recounting their personal experience with the phones. Most of them, in fact, had not even been provided with phones before recording and airing the ads, the FTC alleged.
“It’s my favorite phone camera out there, especially in low light, thanks to Night Sight Mode,” one of the ads gushed. Another said: “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,” according to the FTC.