The marketers behind an app designed to measure blood pressure reached a deal with the Federal Trade Commission over allegedly deceptive claims about the app's accuracy.
Aura Labs, along with founder and co-owner Ryan Archdeacon, were charged with touting that the Instant Blood Pressure app could replace around-the-arm cuffs and was as accurate as a traditional blood pressure cuff when, in reality, the app (which had users put their right index finger on a smartphone camera lens and hold the phone over their heart) was "significantly less accurate." As studies demonstrated "there were clinically and statistically significant deviations between the App's measurements and those from a traditional blood pressure cuff," according to the FTC's complaint. Thus, Aura's claims were false or unsubstantiated.
Sold at Google Play and Apple's App Store for between $3.99 and $4.99, the app generated more than $600,000 in sales over a one-year period. As an additional violation of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the agency said Archdeacon posted a positive review of the app and provided it with five-star ratings in the app stores without disclosing his connection to the company.
According to the FTC, the review—posted by "ARCHIE1986"—read: "This app is a breakthrough for blood pressure monitoring. There are some kinks to work out and you do need to pay close attention to the direction in order to get a successful measurement but all-in-all it's a breakthrough product. For those having connection problems, consider trying again. I have experienced a similar issue. It is also great that the developer is committed to continual improvements. This is a great start!!!"
Pursuant to the stipulated federal court order, the defendants are prohibited from making the deceptive claims alleged in the complaint and any other claims about the health benefits of any product or device without the scientific evidence to support the claims. The defendants must also disclose any material connections between Aura and the individuals who endorse its products.
A judgment of almost $600,000 was suspended upon the defendants' inability to pay.
To read the complaint and order in FTC v. Aura Labs, Inc., click here.
Why it matters: "While the Commission encourages the development of new technologies, health-related claims should not go beyond the scientific evidence available to support them," Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said about the case. "For someone with high blood pressure who relies on accurate readings, this deception can actually be hazardous."