Texas Sues Google Over Smartphone Radio Ads

The state's attorney general alleged that the tech giant engaged in false and misleading practices.

South Lake Union Google office, Seattle, Jan. 14, 2022.
South Lake Union Google office, Seattle, Jan. 14, 2022.
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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas' attorney general on Wednesday sued Google, alleging the company asked local radio DJs to record personal endorsements for smartphones that they hadn't used or been provided.

In the lawsuit filed in Montgomery County, Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton said Google engaged in false and misleading practices in violation of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices—Consumer Protection Act.

The lawsuit says Google hired iHeartMedia in October 2019 to have its radio personalities — including those in markets in the Dallas and Houston areas — record advertisements for the Pixel 4, a Google-brand smartphone.

But at the time the advertisements were recorded, the lawsuit says, the phone wasn't released yet and none of the DJs had used them. The suit says that even though iHeartMedia “expressed to Google the violative nature of the advertisements" if the DJs had not used them, Google did not provide phone samples.

Google spokesman José Castañeda said Wednesday that they take compliance with advertising laws seriously and have policies in place to help ensure they follow regulations.

“We will review the complaint but the AG’s allegations appear to misrepresent what occurred here," Castañeda said.

Paxton also sued Google in December 2020. In that lawsuit, Texas led a group of states alleging Google was running an illegal digital-advertising monopoly in cahoots with Facebook. Google, which is based in Mountain View, California, called the claims in that lawsuit “meritless.”

Paxton, who faces GOP challengers in his reelection bid this year, is facing a years-old criminal case and a newer FBI investigation.

He pleaded not guilty in a state securities fraud case, which has been stalled since 2015. He has broadly denied wrongdoing in the separate criminal probe launched after his then-top deputies reported him to the FBI in 2020 for alleged bribery and abuse of office.

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