FTC Crackdown on Google and iHeartMedia: 29,000 Deceptive Endorsements

Federal Trade Commission

The Federal Trade Commission recently finalized consent orders against Google LLC and iHeartMedia, Inc. settling allegations that they produced and aired nearly 29,000 deceptive first-person endorsements by radio personalities promoting the personalities’ use of and experience with Google’s Pixel 4 phone in 2019 and 2020.

According to the FTC, in 2019, Google hired iHeartMedia and 11 other radio networks in ten major markets to have radio personalities record and broadcast first-person endorsements of the Pixel 4 phone. Google provided iHeartMedia with scripts detailing the personalities’ experiences with the Pixel 4. However, the personalities were not provided with Pixel 4s before recording and airing most of the ads, and therefore did not own or regularly use the phones.

The final orders approved by the Commission settle the allegations and bar Google and iHeartMedia from similar misrepresentations. Separate state judgments also require them to pay a total of $9.4 million in penalties.

The Commission vote approving the final consent orders and response to one public commenter was 4-0. The staff attorneys on this matter are Karen Mandel and Laura Sullivan of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

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