FTC Urged To Crack Down On Google Over Ads For Face Masks

Two Senate Democrats are urging the Federal Trade Commission to take action against Google for allegedly failing to enforce its ban on ads for face masks.

“Google has made repeated representations to consumers that its policies prohibit ads for products such as protective masks,” Sens. Brian Warner (D-Virginia) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) say in a letter sent to the FTC Tuesday. “Yet the company appears not to be taking even rudimentary steps to enforce that policy, such as easily automated and scalable actions like flagging ads with relevant terms in the outbound URL.”

The lawmakers add that Google's “misrepresentations” harm consumers by exploiting their fears in order to overcharge them for products, and that the company is contributing to shortages of products needed by health care workers.

Google and Facebook said last week they were restricting ads for face masks. Google said at the time that it could take a “few days” for the ads to be removed, according to CNBC.

The lawmakers write that staffers noticed ads for face masks appearing on news articles that reported on Google's new policy banning such ads.

“Browsing in incognito mode across a range of different devices, our staffs were consistently served dozens of ads for protective masks and hand sanitizer -- in each case while on a page related to COVID-19,” the lawmakers write.

“Consumers should be able to rely on representations regarding a company's business practices -- particularly in cases, such as this, where Google has acknowledged that offending ads pose harm to consumers,” they write. “If consumers cannot rely on a company's representations, then the FTC must intervene.”

A Google spokesperson says the company is committed “to protecting users and surfacing helpful, authoritative information as the coronavirus situation continues to evolve.”

The spokesperson adds that the since January, Google has blocked millions of ads relating to the coronavirus.

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