By Vittorio Hernandez

Washington, D.C.

Google will pay a $500 million fine to settle government charges the company displayed illegal ads online in the United States for products for Canadian pharmacies.

It was one of the largest penalties ever to settle such a case, Justice Department officials said.

The fine covers revenue that Google made selling online ads to illegal advertisers, along with the sales made by Canadian pharmacies in connection with the scheme.

In addition, Google admitted that it had improperly aided Canadian pharmacies in operating illegally by allowing them to advertise through Google's AdWords program. Under federal law, pharmacies in Canada cannot sell prescription medications to customers in the United States without a doctor's prescription. Moreover, counterfeit drugs were involved.

Web sites are legally liable for the actions of advertisers on their sites that break federal laws.

After Google became aware of the federal investigation in 2010, it began requiring Canadian pharmacies to only direct advertising to customers in Canada.

In addition, Google now requires that Canadian online pharmacy advertisers must be certified by the Canadian International Pharmacy Association and United States pharmacy advertisers to be certified by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.


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