FTC Goes After Acne App Marketers

FTC Goes After Acne App Marketers

LOL – this was a new one on me: using phone apps to commit health fraud.

The cases involving mobile apps “AcneApp” and “Acne Pwner” are the first the FTC has brought targeting health claims in the mobile application marketplace.

The FTC alleged that the mobile apps were advertised to work in the same way: both claimed to be able to treat acne with colored lights emitted from smartphones or mobile devices. Consumers were advised to hold the display screen next to the area of skin to be treated for few minutes daily while the app was activated.

According to the FTC complaint, there were approximately 3,300 downloads of AcnePwner, which was offered for 99 cents in the Android Marketplace. Ads for Acne Pwner stated, “Kill ACNE with this simple, yet powerful tool!” The marketers of AcneApp claimed, “This app was developed by a dermatologist. A study published by the British Journal of Dermatology showed blue and red light treatments eliminated p-acne bacteria (a major cause of acne) and reduces skin blemishes by 76%.” There were approximately 11,600 downloads of AcneApp from the iTunes store, where it was sold for $1.99.

The FTC charged the acne treatment claims made for both apps were unsubstantiated. It also charged that the marketers of AcneApp falsely claimed that the study in the British Journal of Dermatology proves that blue and red light therapy, such as the type provided by AcneApp, is an effective acne treatment.

The settlements would bar the marketers from making acne-treatment claims about their mobile apps and other medical devices, as well as the safety, performance, benefits, or efficacy claims about any device, without competent and reliable scientific evidence. The two marketers of AcneApp would also be barred from misrepresenting research, tests, or studies.

Can red and blue light therapy treat acne? According to a review published in 2009, it might help somewhat, but the reviewers didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about the quality of many of the trials, and the limited comparisons to conventional treatments. But whatever the merits, the idea that holding a smartphone to your face is equivalent to professional treatments and/or devices is pretty absurd.

I guess the only good thing about this particular scam is that it didn’t cost the victims very much… I guess the developers were counting on mass sales to make $$$, and the low price to deter complaints.  Sux to be them.

Author: elissa

Elissa is a former research associate with the University of California at Davis, and the author/co-author of over a dozen articles published in scientific journals. Currently a freelance writer and researcher, Elissa brings her multidisciplinary education and training to her writing on nutrition and supplements.

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