Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) approved a final settlement with marketers of the “Acne Pwner” and “AcneApp” mobile applications (“apps”). This is the first FTC settlement targeting health claims by mobile app developers/marketers, but one of several FTC mobile app enforcement actions.
In the AcneApp case, the defendants claimed that their apps could treat acne with colored lights emitted from a mobile device. To support the claim, the AcneApp marketers relied on a study published by the British Journal of Dermatology, claiming that the study showed blue and red light treatments eliminated p-bacteria (a major cause of acne) and reduced skin blemishes. The FTC determined that AcneApp falsely claimed that the British Journal of Dermatology study proves that red and blue light therapy is an effective acne treatment.
The FTC order prohibits Acne Pwner and AcneApp “from making acne-treatment claims about their mobile apps and other medical devices” without at least two adequate and well controlled human clinical studies. The requirement for two clinical studies is the same standard that the FTC applied in recent settlements with a dietary supplement manufacturer over weight loss claims for its dietary supplements, and with a food marketer over its claims that one of its products reduced the duration of acute diarrhea and reduced school absences. In another recent settlement, FTC ordered Reebok to provide one clinical study to substantiate fitness claims for its toning shoes.
The marketers of Acne Pwner and AcneApp were also ordered to pay the FTC $1,700 and $14,294, respectively.