Google is to shell out one of the largest financial penalties, a colossal $500 million in order to avert Department of Justice's criminal prosecution. Google was alleged to be profiting from advertising Canadian pharmacies illegally selling prescription and non-prescription drugs.
According to reports from AP, Google was aware of these illegal sales to Americans who did not have prescriptions since 2003. The investigation was mainly carried out by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Rhode Island, the Food and Drug Administration.
James Cole, the deputy attorney general commented, “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. 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.”
Whilst the Google spokesperson, in their defense said, “We banned the advertising of prescription drugs in the U.S. by Canadian pharmacies some time ago. However, it's obvious with hindsight that we shouldn't have allowed these ads on Google in the first place. Given the extensive coverage this settlement has already received, we won't be commenting further.”
Google’s AdWords policy was updated in February 2010 to “only accept ads from pharmacies accredited by the National Association Boards of Pharmacy VIPPS program, and from online pharmacies in Canada that are accredited by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association (CIPA). Pharmacies will be restricted to advertising to consumers in their country. U.S. pharmacies can only advertise to U.S. consumers and Canada to Canadian consumers."
AP further noted that, “Google has obtained court orders banning some of the rogue pharmacies named in the lawsuit and is still seeking injunctions against the others,” to fight against the “rogue pharmacies” in New York, Tennessee, and Ohio that knowingly broke did not adhere to Google’s advertising rules.