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Google, IHeartMedia Get $9.4 Mln Fines Over Deceptive Pixel 4 Ads

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The Federal Trade Commission or FTC and several states have sued Google LLC and iHeartMedia, Inc. for deceptive advertisements promoting the Pixel 4 smartphone. The state judgments require the companies to pay $9.4 million in penalties.

The lawsuits were filed by the FTC and attorneys general of states, which reportedly include Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York and Texas. According to releases from the states, the companies need to pay $1.58 million to New York, around $1 million to Massachusetts and more than $1.5 million to Illinois.

The proposed FTC orders and the state judgments settling the allegations bar Google and iHeartMedia from similar misrepresentations.

In a statement, the agency accused that Pixel 4 ads featuring radio personalities' made-up testimonials were aired nearly 29,000 times. These influencers, who never used the phone, promoted their use of and experience with Google's Pixel 4 phone in 2019 and 2020. Officials alleged that Google didn't even supply Pixels before most of the ads were recorded.

FTC noted that Google in 2019 hired iHeartMedia, the nation's largest radio station owner, and 11 other radio networks in ten major markets to record and broadcast Pixel 4 phone ads with on-air personalities.

The tech giant allegedly provided iHeartMedia with scripts that included promotional lines about personal usage of the Pixel 4 phone, but those on-air personalities were not provided with those phones before recording and airing the majority of the ads. The agency noted that the on-air personalities did not own or regularly use the phones.

The proposed orders settling the FTC's charges prohibit Google and iHeartMedia from misrepresenting that an endorser has owned or used, or about their experience with, their respective products and services.

The orders also require both companies to distribute the order to certain people, file compliance reports with the Commission, and keep records to allow the FTC to ensure compliance.

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