The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced yesterday that it had forced two marketers to stop falsely claiming that their smartphone applications could treat acne. The two apps, Acne Power and AcneApp, both claimed to treat acne with colored lights emitted from your smartphone's display. Consumers were advised to hold the display next to the area of skin to be treated for few minutes daily while the blinking lights worked their magic.
Nearly 15,000 people ponied up $.99 for Acne Pwner through the Google Marketplace and $1.99 for AcneApp in the Apple app store.
“Smartphones make our lives easier in countless ways, but unfortunately when it comes to curing acne, there’s no app for that,” said FTC Chairman, Jon Leibowitz.
There are two important lessons consumers should take away from this case. First, just because an app makes it into Apple's "walled garden", doesn't make it an app you can trust. Second, as with everything in life, a little common sense goes a long way. Do the claims the app is making sound too good to be true? They probably are.
This is the first case the FTC has brought targeting app's health claims, and I'll wager it won't be the last. That doesn't mean that you should avoid all health-related apps though. We found some useful ones for managing diabetes, quitting smoking, losing weight, and even curing headaches. But those apps don't claim to cure anything, they focus on helping you identify and manage the causes.