Google agrees to forfeit $500m in Canadian drug ad case

Search-engine giant Google Inc. has agreed to forfeit $500 million for improperly allowing online Canadian pharmacies to use Google advertising services to target US consumers, the US Department of Justice said today.

At a news conference this morning at the US attorney’s office in Providence, Justice Department officials said that the forfeiture is one of the largest in US history; the amount partly represents the revenues that Google received as a result of Canadian pharmacies advertising on AdWords, a Google advertising service.

In general, the importation of prescription drugs to the United States is illegal because federal regulators cannot ensure the safety of those drugs. Federal investigators determined that some Canadian pharmacies unlawfully imported drugs into the United States and advertised those drugs to US citizens “with Google’s knowledge and assistance,� officials said.

Under the agreement between Google and the US government, Google acknowledged that it improperly assisted Canadian online pharmacies, government officials said.

“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,� deputy Attorney General James Cole said in a statement. “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.�

In a separate statement, Peter F. Neronha, US Attorney for the District of Rhode Island, added that today’s agreement with Google “is about taking a significant step forward in limiting the ability of rogue on-line pharmacies from reaching US consumers, by compelling Google to change its behavior. It is about holding Google responsible for its conduct by imposing a $500 million forfeiture, the kind of forfeiture that will not only get Google’s attention, but the attention of all those who contribute to America’s pill problem.�

To read the Justice Department’s press release, please click here.

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