Attorney General Ken Paxton announced in a press release on January 19 that he has filed a lawsuit against Google LLC for engaging in fraudulent and misleading practices in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices—Consumer Protection Act.
The press release states that the State of Texas is seeking “a temporary and permanent injunction ordering Google to cease its misleading practices, and civil monetary penalties for past misconduct.”
The lawsuit stems from Google’s use of San Antonio-based media company iHeartMedia to record and broadcast advertisements in the Dallas-Fort Worth and Greater Houston markets to promote the “Pixel 4,” a Google-branded smartphone, according to court documents.
The ads were allegedly written by Google and included personal endorsements from radio disc jockeys (DJs) describing their use and enjoyment of the smartphone. However, according to the documents, the Pixel 4 had not yet been released, none of the DJs had used it, and Google had refused to provide iHeartMedia with samples.
Google allegedly insisted on the DJs recording “first-hand testimonials” for a product they had never used, despite iHeartMedia’s concerns.
iHeartMedia (and subsidiary iHeartRadio) is the single largest owner of radio stations in the United States, with over 850 full-power AM and FM radio stations throughout the country, and seventy-two stations in Texas alone, according to the complaint.
iHeartMedia employs on-air radio personalities who often record advertisements for broadcasting in their respective local markets.
On January 13, iHeartMedia announced it is extending its presence into the web and the metaverse, beginning with plans to create iHEART events and experiences for listeners and music fans on ROBLOX, Allaccess.com reports.
According to the media company’s press release, iHeartMedia will also use its reach of over 90% of Americans every month to create engagement through the awareness and demand necessary to bring new metaverse and web3 platforms to the mass market.
“This is not the first time I have had to address bad behavior by Big Tech companies. They are not above the law, and I will make sure they are held accountable for their misleading business practices,” Paxton said. “Google will not continue manipulating Texas consumers.”
Per CBS 11 News, spokesperson for Google José Castañeda responded to the accusations on Wednesday, saying the company takes advertising laws very seriously and has policies enacted that make certain they maintain compliance with regulations.
“We will review the complaint but the AG’s allegations appear to misrepresent what occurred here,” said Castañeda.