The Federal Trade Commission has challenged marketers for deceptively claiming their mobile apps could detect symptoms of melanoma, even in its early stages. In two separate cases, marketers of MelApp and Mole Detective have agreed to settlements that bar them from continuing to make such unsupported claims. The agency is pursuing charges against two additional marketers of Mole Detective who did not agree to settle.
According to the FTC’s complaints, each of the apps instructed users to photograph a mole with a smartphone camera and input other information about the mole. The apps then purported to calculate the mole’s melanoma risk as low, medium, or high. The FTC alleged that the marketers deceptively claimed the apps accurately analyzed melanoma risk and could assess such risk in early stages. The marketers lacked adequate evidence to support such claims, the FTC charged.
“Truth in advertising laws apply in the mobile marketplace,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “App developers and marketers must have scientific evidence to support any health or disease claims that they make for their apps.”
Mole Detective Settlement and Lawsuit.
Kristi Kimball and her company, New Consumer Solutions LLC, developed and first marketed Mole Detective in January 2012. U.K.-based Avrom “Avi” Lasarow and his company, L Health Ltd., took over marketing the app in August 2012. The marketers advertised the app primarily online, where it has sold in the Apple and Google app stores for as much as $4.99.
The settlement with Kimball and her company prohibits them from claiming that a device, such as an app, can detect or diagnose melanoma, unless the representation is truthful, not misleading, and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence in the form of human clinical testing of the device. It also prohibits them from making any other misleading or unsubstantiated health claims about a product or service, and requires them to disgorge $3,930. The agency will pursue a litigated judgment against non-settling defendants Lasarow and his company.
Health Discovery Corporation began marketing MelApp online in 2011 for $1.99. The proposed settlement will bar the company from claiming that any device detects or diagnoses melanoma or its risk factors, or increases users’ chances of early detection, unless the representation is not misleading and supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence in the form of human clinical testing of the device. The settlement also prohibits the company from making any other misleading or unsubstantiated claims about a device’s health benefits or efficacy. Finally, the company must disgorge $17,963.