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
  • TexaSTAN! Go figure.
  • The things Texans do often causes me embarrassment. Still it's home.
  • You can move to California or any NE states where politics fit your beliefs better…so that you won’t be embarrass anymore. I never get that…why stay in a state that you don’t support nor care for their ways of life/thinking? California people coming to TX or FL due to better housing and lower cost of living……want to turn these states into the very state that they are leaving.
  • I might point out that Texas isn't all red. Biden got 46 % of the vote. When I was a young guy Texas was a very blue state and the Republican party wasn't a subversive organization. Things change.
  • Sure i understand that. But why live in a state that you’re embarrassed at? Move to beautiful California? New York? New Jersey? Portland? Those places are beautiful and their politics/way of life are just perfect for you. Those places have protests 24 hours a day that you can join. Their cost of living fits your rich pocket. Electric everything. No gas cooktops. No generators that are smelly.
  • Lol did you just call me rich? I don't know why you would make that assumption. Nope. Not at all rich. Paycheck to paycheck thats me.
  • Ahh…so you’re not well off…and that is why you want TX/FL to become Kali so that you can get more free handouts? Raise your minimum wage so that the state can take more out of your income? Think about that for a minute…they raise your wage to get you into another tax bracket to take more tax from you to pay for “freebies” to illegals and poor. Where do you think the freebies come from? Who is paying for that? Let me guess, you think that the ultra rich will pay? Do you know how much Elon Musk made for income in 2021? ZERO. No income. How can IRS tax him? He made less than you! He is “poor”. He got paid in stock options. Well, if he does not cash out his stock options, then IRS cannot touch his stocks. Musk will wait until a favorable tax rate comes along then he will cash out some of his stocks. This is what ALL CEOs do…Bezos, Cook, etc.. BUT, you know who will pay taxes like crazy to pay for those freebies to illegals and poor? The MIDDLE CLASS. The hardworking middle class. Maybe YOU. Middle class don’t have the luxury of getting ZERO income and stock options. We don’t have fancy accountants to play games with IRS to avoid paying taxes. Open your eyes dude. Don’t get tricked by Democrats who promise the world and deliver crap. How many Democrat states are doing well? California, despite all the tech world that is there and resources, is near bankrupt. If you earn over $50k per year, you have to pay at least $13k in taxes to support their “free” programs. So, effectively, your salary is $37k or less. How’s that “raise” that you got? Still feeling good?
  • I think you should be on medication. Lots of it.
  • Aren’t you the one that is disgruntled and pouting because you live in TX? Move your arse if you’re unhappy. Don’t blame others.
  • Moving states because because a bunch of morons are running it is stupid. You can't affect anything running away. Stay and help to turn that **** around. Vote their arses out and keep it moving.
  • Morons? Those morons have made state successful and attracting business from failed democratic states.
  • Nope, they just attracted more morons. Those Democratic states have done nothing but thrive since. Try again.
  • Haha yeah move to California where all the homeless tents and faeces on the footpaths are. Much better than Texas.
  • You can take the worst part of any state and make it look bad. But that's incrediblebly narrow thinking. There are parts of California that are absolutely beautiful.
  • Although I think Paxton is a moron, if what the suit alleges is true they have a point.
  • I don’t get the anti-TX sentiments. Dude, Google lied. Google faked it. It is like Elaine faking her orgasm with Jerry. Texas caught Google with its pants down.
  • I remember those ads playing during the russ martin show when i was driving home. Wheres my cut of the money?
  • I wish that Government would hold ALL big business accountable if they make false/untrue/misleading statements in their advertising.
  • Wait, so the ads were recorded by the stations' on-air personalities?
    Why didn't iHeartRadio just tell Google "no"? This doesn't reflect well on Google, but it reflects even worse on the radio stations.
  • That is explained in the lawsuit. The radio says they were forced to lie and were denied access to the actual device. Refusing to run the ads would mean no money and no food on the table, so they didn't have much of a choice.
  • So it's OK to lie as long as you need the money, is that right? The personalities and iHeartMedia seemed perfectly happy to take the advertising money. Is the Texas AG suing them for actually taking the money and broadcasting the 'falsehoods', or just Google because it is de-rigueur to do so.