Google Sued Over Paying Radio Hosts To Promote Pixel 4 — Even Though They Hadn't Used The Phone

The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, announced lawsuits against Alphabet Inc.'s GOOG GOOGL Google and iHeartMedia Inc. IHRT for allegedly paying radio hosts to read scripted endorsements of Pixel 4, even when they hadn’t used the smartphone. 

What Happened: Google and iHeartMedia are required to pay '$9.4 million in penalties' to the FTC and seven state attorneys general. 

“Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used," said Samuel Levine, the Bureau of Consumer Protection director. 

As per the complaint, "Google paid iHeartMedia more than $2.6 million to record and broadcast advertisements featuring Radio Personalities endorsing the Pixel 4." 

In 2019, Google hired iHeartMedia and 11 other radio networks in 10 major markets, said FTC. The tech giant wanted to have on-air personalities record and broadcast endorsements of the Pixel 4 phone and even provided them with scripts, the FTC added. 

See Also: How To Buy Google (GOOGL) Stock

About 29,000 deceptive endorsements were aired by radio personalities, speaking about their experiences with the Pixel 4 smartphone, said FTC.

Google did not immediately respond to Benzinga's request for comments.

According to the FTC, some of the lines from the scripts were:

"It's my favorite phone camera out there, especially in low light, thanks to Night Sight Mode." 

"I've been taking studio-like photos of everything." 

"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." 

Why It's Important: The on-air hosts never used Pixel 4 before airing most ads, said FTC.

The settlement prohibits Google from misrepresenting an endorser's experience with "certain products," while iHeartMedia is barred from misrepresenting experience with any "consumer product or service." 

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