Google Sued Over Allegedly Deceptive Pine-Sol Ads

Google has been hit with a potential class-action lawsuit over an allegedly deceptive ad for Pine-Sol cleaner.

The false advertising lawsuit, brought this week by Massachusetts resident Judith Golditch, centers on a Google Shopping ad that says Pine-Sol kills “99.9% of germs.”

The ad links to an Instacart site, which allows people to make purchases through retailers.

Golditch alleges that the ad “gives the misleading impression” that using Pine-Sol will prevent diseases including the COVID-19 virus.

Google's “false, deceptive and misleading marketing and sale of the product has enabled defendants to sell more of the product than they would have in the absence defendants’ misconduct,” Golditch alleges in a class-action complaint filed in U.S. District Court for Massachusetts.

Google, which says its Shopping ads are created based on material submitted by advertisers, has not yet responded to MediaPost's request for comment about the lawsuit. 

But the company has a strong defense under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, according to Harvard Law School professor Rebecca Tushnet, an expert in advertising law.

“This is an easy 230 case,” she tells MediaPost.

She adds that judges have long ruled that online companies that offer tools allowing third parties to create ads aren't responsible for the content of those ads.

In 2008, Google prevailed in a separate lawsuit over allegedly fraudulent ringtone ads. In that case, a federal judge in San Jose ruled that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act immunizes Google from liability for pay-per-click ads created through its ad platform.

"Providing third parties with neutral tools to create web content is considered to be squarely within the protections of (the law)," the judge wrote at the time. "Even if a service provider knows that third parties are using such tools to create illegal content, the service's provider's failure to intervene is immunized."

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