Two years late, Texas is suing Google over its Pixel 4 radio ads

Oh So Orange Pixel 4
Oh So Orange Pixel 4 (Image credit: Nick Sutrich / Android Central)

What you need to know

  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing Google over alleged illegal advertising claims about the Pixel 4.
  • The ads in question were run 2,405 times across iHeartMedia radio stations across the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston markets between October 28 and December 2, 2019.
  • The suit states that Google failed to provide smartphone samples to eight radio personalities even though it required the reader to make positive testimonies about their personal use with the Pixel 4.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has brought forth a lawsuit claiming that Google compelled radio advertisers in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston markets to make inaccurate claims about its Pixel 4 smartphone — a phone that had a hard time making our list of best Android phones and had yet to be released at the time the ads were being recorded.

Furthermore, the claim alleges that Google refused to provide smartphones to advertisers, even though Google required advertisers to speak of their positive personal testimony about the phone itself. Specifically, the suit states that "Google demanded the recording and broadcast of the advertisements using Google's scripted and deceptive wording" even after being informed by iHeartMedia that such practices were against the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Consumer Protection Act.

Per Market Watch, Google spokesperson José Castañeda stated that Google "will review the complaint but the AG's allegations appear to misrepresent what occurred here."

The script, as provided in the lawsuit, includes phrases like "I've been taking studio-like photos of everything…my son's football game… a meteor shower… a rare spotted owl that landed in my backyard." Radio broadcasters were allowed to slightly modify the specific events spoken but were disallowed from removing the personal claims, according to the suit.

Texas AG says that the ad ran 2,405 times between October 28, 2019, and December 2, 2019. During that time, the suit alleges that Google never provided smartphones to any of the eight radio personalities that had recorded "personalized" messages about their use of the Pixel 4.

Later on, in January 2020, Google contacted iHeartMedia to run another near-identical ad campaign for the Pixel 4. The suit claims that Google didn't provide smartphone samples to radio personalities until after iHeartMedia attempted to purchase them on its own and that "this continued pattern of behavior demonstrates the blatant disregard Google possesses for true and accurate advertising in the marketing and sale of its products."

If the state wins the case, it would order Google to "pay civil penalties not to exceed $10,000 per violation of the DTPA to the State of Texas," along with any court fees, according to the suit.

Google declined to comment beyond what spokesperson Castañeda already said.

Nicholas Sutrich
Senior Content Producer — Smartphones & VR
Nick started with DOS and NES and uses those fond memories of floppy disks and cartridges to fuel his opinions on modern tech. Whether it's VR, smart home gadgets, or something else that beeps and boops, he's been writing about it since 2011. Reach him on Twitter or Instagram @Gwanatu