FTC Targets Acne App Marketers; First Mobile Medical Case For Commission

Hear that? It’s the sound of thousands of teenagers sighing because the FTC crushed their faith in a popular acne-fighting smartphone app. Last week, much to the dismay of 14,900 pimple-plagued people, Jon Lebowitz and his merry band of trade commissioners announced a consent agreement reached with the operators of “Acne Pwner” and “Acne App.”

Sheesh, first it was Justin Beiber’s Free-Scooter battle and now this!

All jokes aside, dealing with acne is emotional. Sufferers should be safeguarded against marketers pushing scientifically unsubstantiated blemish-busting products. So the FTC hopped on the case.

The Great Red-Blue Hope

We live in a world where Marty McFly’s sneakers can be had and Star Trek science is taken seriously. So it’s not farfetched to think that a red-and-blue light emitting smartphone app can cure acne. Or at least, ostensibly, that’s what the marketers of AcneApp and Acne Pwner figured, evidenced by their promotional materials.

AcnePwner was available in Google’s Andriod Marketplace for .99 cents; 3,300 hopefuls downloaded the miracle app. AcneApp was a $1.99 iTune Store special and 11,600 pulled the proverbial click trigger.

“Kill ACNE with this simple yet powerful tool” was Acne Pwner’s call-to-action, while AcneApp affirmed that their app, “was developed by a dermatologist.” AcneApp marketers went one step further and explained in their agitprop that “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%.”

Apparently, someone over at the FTC, however, was skeptical and did a little research. Turns out that the British Journal of Dermatology never made the claim the defendants attributed to their publication; both AcneApp and Acne Pwner principals were paraded in front of a panel and questioned about making “unsubstantiated medical claims.” Long story short, the parties agreed to a consent settlement.

The Final Call

As is the case with many FTC investigations, the principals agreed to a deal wherein they are barred from making certain types of marketing claims in the future. In this instance, the involved individuals can no longer create or promote advertorial material about acne treatments. They’re also banned from making unsubstantiated promotional medical claims, which is against the law for all, anyway.

In addition, DermApps – the developer of AcneApp – must pay a $14,294 fine and Acne Pwner has to pony up $1,700.

According to the FTC’s website, AcneApp-gate is the first FTC case “targeting health claims in the mobile app marketplace” that the commission has considered. Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope that this time around, instead of prosecuting niche practitioners all willy-nilly, the FTC takes the time to draft, refine and publish a clear, concise guide explaining what constitutes misrepresentation when it comes to online and smartphone health applications. (Yeah, I’m not holding my breath either.)

The FTC has a reputation for randomness. And as a result, affiliate marketers and online entrepreneurs often end up having to defend themselves against a moving, law-making target. It’s kinda like arguing on the Internet.

Thankfully, we’re skilled at trolling the FTC and are up-to-date on their latest rulings, regulations and investigations. If you’re currently caught in their crosshairs or want to avoid ending up in the scope, get in touch with the Kelly Law Firm. We’ve handled innumerable FTC-related lawsuits for affiliate ninjas and mom-and-pop businesses alike. Our success track record is impressive. If you want to take control of the situation, hit us up by phone at 1-866-645-6004 or by email at aaron@aaronkellylaw.com or on Skype at aarnonklaw.