The U.S. Justice Department officials announced that Google has agreed to pay $500 million to settle federal charges that the online search giant improperly helped online Canadian pharmacies target U.S. consumers.
The forfeiture, one of the largest ever in the United States, represents the gross revenue received by Google as a result of Canadian pharmacies advertising through Google’s AdWords program, plus gross revenue made by Canadian pharmacies from their sales to U.S. consumers.
Under the agreement, officials say that Google acknowledged that it improperly helped the illegal online Canadian pharmacies to place advertisements through its AdWords program targeting consumers in the United States, resulting in the unlawful importation of controlled and non-controlled prescription drugs into the United States
The feds say that Google blocked pharmacies in countries other than Canada from advertising in the U.S., but continued to allow Canadian pharmacy advertisers to target U.S. consumers.
Further, from 2003 through 2009, Google provided customer support to some of these Canadian online pharmacy advertisers to assist them in placing and optimizing their AdWords advertisements, and in improving the effectiveness of their websites.
Deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a prepared statement:
“The Department of Justice will continue to hold accountable companies who in their bid for profits violate federal law and put at risk the health and safety of American consumers,” said Deputy Attorney General Cole. “This settlement ensures that Google will reform its improper advertising practices with regard to these pharmacies while paying one of the largest financial forfeiture penalties in history.”
Here is the ruling in its entirety: