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Google and iHeartRadio to pay $9.4 million for misleading radio ads

November 28, 2022 Rob Abruzzese
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Google and iHeartMedia were forced to pay $9.4 million for airing misleading ads about a Google phone, Attorney General Letitia James announced on Monday.

Google paid radio personalities to lie over the air and describe their supposedly positive experience using the Google Pixel 4 phone, however, it turned out that they had never used the phone at all prior to recording the ads, according to the Attorney General’s Office.

The misleading advertisements were run over iHeartMedia radio stations more than 23,000 times in 10 different markets including in New York, which violated the state’s consumer protection laws.

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Attorney General Letitia James announced on Monday that Google and iHeartRadio will pay $9.4 million in fines for running more than 20,000 misleading radio advertisements.
Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

“Google and iHeartMedia knowingly misled the public through inaccurate ads to turn a profit,” said Attorney General James. “False advertising is a fraud against the public. Companies big and small have a responsibility to be honest about their products and follow the law, there are no exceptions. Consumers deserve to know the truth about products before making any purchases.”

The fine is large, however, Google, which is owned by Alphabet, has an estimated market capitalization of $1.126 trillion as of November 2, 2022 and iHeartRadio has an estimated market cap of $1.149 billion.

The advertising campaign started in 2019 when Google partnered with iHeartMedia and other local radio stations to promote the Google Pixel 4. Radio personalities immediately began talking about phones that they were allegedly using even though they were still not released to the public. Google did not provide any stations with any phones ahead of time.

Luke Combs performs on the second night of the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Festival, Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Of the $9.4 million, New York State will receive $1.52 million from Google and $56,767 from iHeartMedia in penalties, costs and fees. Google has been banned from making certain types of advertisements in New York State in the future, and Google will provide compliance reports for just three years, and iHeartMedia will provide compliance reports for the next 10 years.

“Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules,” said Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine. “The FTC will not stop working with our partners in the states to crack down on deceptive ads and ensure firms that break the rules pay a price.”

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