Google fined for using a radio host who hasn't used the Pixel 4 to endorse it

Google and iHeartMedia are reaching a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and seven state attorneys general because they allegedly paid radio hosts to let them play without Speak for the Pixel 4 while actually using the phone. Google allegedly paid iHeartRadio more than $2.6 million and nearly $2 million to 11 smaller broadcast networks to run deceptive Pixel 4 ads.

These ads, Google provides the script for the host to read on the radio. Some examples include:

  • The only thing I love is taking perfect pictures at night. With the Google Pixel 4, it's a breeze.
  • This is my favorite phone camera, especially in low light, thanks to the Night Sight mode.

According to the FTC press release, for most of the Pixel 4 commercials, the hosts didn't get the Pixel 4 before the spot was taped, despite iHeartMedia's October 2019 request for the phone prior to taping, which iHeartMedia later claimed in Google's January 2020 release. After asking for more ads in March, Google asked again for the phone, and Google ended up sending only five, one for each market where the ad was recorded. In 2019 and 2020, nearly 29,000 deceptive ads aired, the FTC said.

As part of the settlement, Google and iHeartMedia will be prohibited from falsely reporting the experience of the spokesperson. Google cannot misrepresent the experience of using "covered products," including its consumer products, and iHeartMedia cannot misrepresent the experience of "any consumer product or service." Google and iHeartRadio will also pay $9.4 million to the states that settled with them.

Google spokesman José Castañeda said,,

We're pleased to have resolved this issue. We take compliance with advertising laws seriously and have procedures in place to help ensure we comply with relevant regulations and industry standards.

 iHeartMedia declined to comment.

The image spokesperson advertisements in the United States must be testimonial advertisements and express guarantees, which means that celebrities must be the direct beneficiaries and users of the products they endorse, otherwise they will be severely punished. However, except for some luxury goods, it is rare to see celebrity endorsements for everyday products in the United States.

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