California and other states are receiving a total of $9.4 million from Google under a settlement that resolves allegations that the company paid DJs to voice endorsements of a smartphone that most of them never used.
California’s portion of the settlement is approximately $2.7 million.
The DJs worked predominantly at iHeartMedia, which, along with other local radio stations, partnered with Google in 2019 for the ads. As part of the ad campaign, Google told radio personalities to describe their personal experiences using the Pixel 4, even though the phone wasn’t available yet. According to the California Department of Justice, Google refused to provide the phones to any of the stations in advance of them recording and airing the ads.
“Therefore, the radio personalities’ statements about their personal experience were generally untrue,” according to the California DOJ.
Under the settlement, iHeartMedia will pay the states $400,000, of which California will get about $125,000.
The settlement also requires iHeartMedia and Google to comply with terms to prevent future misconduct.
“Google tried to take shortcuts in advertising its products, and now it’s paying the price,” said California Attorney General Rob Bonta as he joined attorney generals in other states in announcing the settlement.
“Asking DJs to share personal experiences about a product they had not used is misleading — and a violation of state consumer protection laws,” Mr. Bonta said Monday. “As attorney general, I won’t stand by when consumers spend their hard-earned money based on a lie.”
Attorney General Bonta joined the Federal Trade Commission and attorneys general of Arizona, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts and New York in the settlement against Google. Texas also joined the group in its settlement against iHeartMedia.