On November 28, 2022, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) and seven state attorneys general announced that they reached settlements with Google LLC and iHeartMedia, Inc., to resolve claims that the companies aired deceptive advertisements promoting Google’s Pixel 4 phone by arranging for iHeartMedia radio personalities who never actually used the phone to personally endorse it.  The companies agreed to pay a combined $9.4 million to the states to settle these allegations.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Google paid iHeartMedia more than $2.6 million to have iHeartMedia radio personalities record endorsements promoting Google’s Pixel 4 phones on iHeartMedia stations.  The FTC claimed that Google and iHeartMedia violated the FTC Act by falsely representing in the ads that the radio personalities owned or regularly used the phones.  Google provided scripts to iHeartMedia, which included statements like “It’s my favorite phone camera out there, especially in low light, thanks to Night Sight Mode.”  The complaint also alleged that Google paid other radio personalities not affiliated with iHeartMedia to make similar claims.

The proposed consent orders against Google and against iHeartMedia prohibit each company from making misrepresentations that endorsers have owned or used their products or services, or about an endorser’s experience with them. 

These settlements follow on the heels of other FTC enforcement actions in the area of endorsements and testimonials.  For example, in February 2022 the FTC returned more than $930,000 to consumers who purchased products that Teami, LLC marketed and sold using allegedly deceptive endorsements.  The FTC took action against Teami and its owners in March 2020, alleging that the company paid prominent social media influencers for endorsements without adequately disclosing that the influencers were paid to promote its products.   In addition to bringing such enforcement actions, the FTC in October 2021 distributed Notices of Penalty Offenses to over 700 companies, putting them on notice that engaging in deceptive or unfair conduct concerning endorsements and testimonials could subject them to civil penalties of up to $43,792 per violation.  

The proposed FTC consent orders are subject to a 30-day public comment period following publication in the Federal Register.

Photo of Yaron Dori Yaron Dori

Yaron Dori has over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection law, advising telecom, technology, life sciences, media and other types of companies on their most pressing business challenges. He is a former chair of the Communications and Media practice…

Yaron Dori has over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection law, advising telecom, technology, life sciences, media and other types of companies on their most pressing business challenges. He is a former chair of the Communications and Media practice group and currently serves as a member of the firm’s eight-person Management Committee.

Yaron’s practice focuses on strategic planning, policy development, transactions, investigations and enforcement, and regulatory compliance.

He represents clients before federal regulatory agencies—including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)—and the U.S. Congress in connection with a range of policy issues under the Communications Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, and similar statutes. He also represents clients on state regulatory and enforcement matters, including those that pertain to telecommunications and data privacy regulation. His unique experience in telecommunications, privacy, and consumer protection enables him to advise clients on key business issues in which these areas intersect.

With respect to telecommunications matters, Yaron advises clients on a broad range of business, policy and consumer-facing issues, including:

  • Broadband deployment and regulation;
  • IP-enabled applications, services and content;
  • Equipment and device authorization procedures;
  • The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA);
  • Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) requirements;
  • The Cable Privacy Act
  • Net Neutrality; and
  • Local competition, universal service, and intercarrier compensation.

Yaron also has extensive experience in structuring transactions and securing regulatory approvals at both the federal and state levels for mergers, asset acquisitions and similar transactions involving large and small FCC and state licensees.

With respect to privacy and consumer protection matters, Yaron advises clients on a range of business, strategic, policy and compliance issues, including those that pertain to:

  • The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA);
  • The Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA);
  • Location-based services that use WiFi, beacons or similar technologies;
  • Online Behavioral Advertising;
  • Online advertising practices, including native advertising and endorsements and testimonials; and
  • The application of federal and state telemarketing, commercial fax, and other consumer protection laws, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), to voice, text, and video transmissions.

Yaron also has experience advising companies on FCC (Enforcement Bureau), FTC and state attorney general investigations into various consumer protection and communications matters, including those pertaining to social media influencers, digital disclosures, product discontinuance, and advertising claims.

Photo of Laura Kim Laura Kim

Laura Kim draws upon her experience in senior positions at the Federal Trade Commission to advise clients across industries on complex advertising, privacy, and data security matters. She provides practical compliance advice and represents clients in FTC and State AG investigations. Ms. Kim…

Laura Kim draws upon her experience in senior positions at the Federal Trade Commission to advise clients across industries on complex advertising, privacy, and data security matters. She provides practical compliance advice and represents clients in FTC and State AG investigations. Ms. Kim advises on a wide range of consumer protection issues, including green claims, influencers, native advertising, claim substantiation, Made in USA claims, children’s privacy, subscription auto-renewal marketing, and other digital advertising matters. In addition, Ms. Kim actively practices before the NAD, including recent successful resolution of matters for both challengers and advertisers. She co-chairs Covington’s Advertising and Consumer Protection Practice Group and participates in the firm’s Internet of Things Initiative.

Ms. Kim re-joined Covington after a twelve-year tenure at the FTC, where she served as Assistant Director in two divisions of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, as well as Chief of Staff in the Bureau of Consumer Protection and Attorney Advisor to former Chairman William E. Kovacic. She worked on key FTC Rules and Guides such as the Green Guides, Jewelry Guides, and the Telemarketing Sales Rule. She supervised these and other rule making proceedings and oversaw dozens of the Commission’s investigations and enforcement actions involving compliance with these rules. Ms. Kim also supervised compliance monitoring for companies under federal court or Commission order.

Ms. Kim also served as Deputy Chief Enforcement Officer at the U.S. Department of Education, where she helped establish a new Enforcement Office within Federal Student Aid. In this role, she managed investigations of higher education institutions and oversaw issuance of fines and adverse actions for institutions in violation of federal student aid regulations. Ms. Kim also supervised the borrower defense to repayment division and the Clery campus safety and security division.

Photo of Andrew Longhi Andrew Longhi

Andrew Longhi is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity and Communications and Media Practice Groups. Andrew advises clients on a broad range of privacy and cybersecurity issues, including compliance obligations, commercial transactions…

Andrew Longhi is an associate in the firm’s Washington, DC office and a member of the Data Privacy and Cybersecurity and Communications and Media Practice Groups. Andrew advises clients on a broad range of privacy and cybersecurity issues, including compliance obligations, commercial transactions involving personal information and cybersecurity risk, and responses to regulatory inquiries. Andrew is Admitted to the Bar under DC App. R. 46-A (Emergency Examination Waiver); Practice Supervised by DC Bar members.