Google agrees to $9 million settlement over misleading Pixel 4 ads

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(Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Google and iHeartMedia are likely to pay $9.4 million to FTC for misleading Pixel 4 endorsements.
  • The ads, which aired back in 2019, were considered disrespectful to truth in advertising practices.
  • The Pixel 4s weren't given to hosts beforehand, and advertisements were broadcasted as if they had previously used the smartphone. 
  • Google is said to have paid $2.6 million to iHeartMedia for such ads that included scripts with promotional lines.   

Google is again in the news in settling a lawsuit with FTC for reportedly airing nearly 29,000 deceptive endorsements through iHeartMedia radio network regarding its old Pixel 4 smartphone.

In collaboration with iHeartMedia, Google will likely pay $9 million in penalties over the alleged Pixel 4 endorsements (via The Verge). The latest press release from the Federal Trade Commission indicates that Google had paid for these ads for its flagship Android smartphone released in 2019. The ads were reportedly played across the years 2019 and 2020.

One of the first lawsuits was filed in January by a Texas attorney who claimed that between October 28 and December 2, 2019, these endorsements were broadcasted 2,405 times on radio stations owned by iHeartMedia in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston markets.

Pixel 4a

(Image credit: Andrew Martonik / Android Central)

The FTC had ordered Google and iHeartMedia to pay $9.4 million in penalties to settle the allegations as it considers promoting the Pixel 4 without actually using them to be a serious breach of the regulations governing truth in advertising.

“Google and iHeartMedia paid influencers to promote products they never used, showing a blatant disrespect for truth-in-advertising rules,” said 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.”

The latest press release also indicates that back in 2019, Google recruited iHeartMedia and 11 more radio networks in 10 key markets to have on-air personalities record and broadcast endorsements for the Pixel 4 smartphone.

The Verge report further mentions that Google had paid around $2.6 million and $2 million to iHeartMedia and eleven others to promote the Pixel 4 smartphone.

Google further provided scripts for the radio hosts to promote how suitable the Pixel 4 is without giving them the device. The scripts had some popular promotional lines, like,

“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,” and “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.”

Nonetheless, the lawsuit seems to have been settled now, with Google agreeing to pay the penalty. Google also says it’s pleased to resolve the issue, as its spokesperson, José Castañeda, stated to The Verge.

“We are pleased to resolve this issue,” Google spokesperson José Castañeda said.

“We take compliance with advertising laws seriously and have processes in place designed to help ensure we follow relevant regulations and industry standards.”

Android Central has reached out to Google for comment.

Vishnu Sarangapurkar
News Writer

Vishnu works as a freelance News Writer for Android Central. For the past four years, he's been writing about consumer technology, primarily involving smartphones, laptops, and every other gizmo connected to the Internet. When he is away from keyboard, you can see him going on a long drive or chilling on a couch binge-watching some crime series.