First on Fox: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a lawsuit against Google, claiming the tech giant used "misleading endorsements" for a product that wasn’t even available at the time of advertisement.
Paxton filed the lawsuit Wednesday, seeking a temporary and permanent injunction against Google and civil monetary penalties for past misconduct regarding potentially misleading ads for the Pixel 4 smartphone.
"Google perpetrated a fraud on Texas consumers by producing, scripting, and paying for advertisements that were blatantly false," Attorney General Paxton exclusively told FOX Business. "Yet again, Texas consumers have been victimized by this Big Tech giant through this latest act in a long line of illegal behavior. Google should be held accountable, and I will ensure this conglomerate knows they are not above the law in the State of Texas."
Google allegedly distributed the ads in October 2019 through iHeartMedia in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston markets that included personal testimonials from radio DJs despite the fact that the phone had not been released yet and none of the DJs had used the phone. DFW and Houston are both top 10 U.S. media markets.
A Google spokesperson told FOX Business that the company "will review the complaint, but the AG’s allegations appear to misrepresent what occurred here."
"We take compliance with advertising laws seriously and have policies in place designed to help ensure we follow relevant regulations and industry standards," said José Castañeda, a Google spokesperson.
The Pixel 4 was announced on Oct. 15, 2019, and hit the U.S. markets on Oct. 24 that year. Some DJs recorded the ads on Oct. 21, according to the lawsuit.
One sample of the script mentioned that the Pixel 4 was the DJ’s "favorite phone camera" while highlighting the phone’s Night Sight Mode, with the DJ claiming to have taken "studio-like photos of everything."
"It’s also great at helping me get stuff done, thanks to the new voice-activated Google Assistant that can handle multiple tasks at once," the DJ would claim, despite not having used the phone at all by the time the ads ran.
iHeartMedia, headquartered in San Antonio, raised concerns that the ads would appear misleading to consumers, but Google allegedly refused to change course and insisted on the use of "first-hand testimonials."
A Google employee told iHeartMedia that providing phones to talent for use was "not feasible" at the time because the product was "not on shelves yet."
iHeartMedia is the largest operator of radio stations in the U.S., with over 850 AM and FM radio stations across the country. Texas alone is home to 72 of those stations.
The lawsuit comes on the heels of a lawsuit in Utah that accuses Google and Facebook of conspiring together by approving a secret deal that gave Facebook an advantage in online advertising auctions.
"This is not the first time I have had to address bad behavior by Big Tech companies," Paxton noted in a press release. "They are not above the law, and I will make sure they are held accountable for their misleading business practices," "Google will not continue manipulating Texas consumers."
The suit seeks monetary relief in excess of $1,000,000.