Got Zits? There’s an App for That – Not

Posted September 9, 2011 in Frauds & Scams by Arthur Buono

We continue now with our expanded coverage of the zit-popping mobile app. The Federal Trade Commission has blocked the marketing of two mobile apps that claimed to cure acne with light therapy. A settlement requires the marketers to pay $16,000 in fines.

  • FTC busts fraudulent mobile app acne cure
  • FDA setting guidelines for mobile health apps
  • Many a good fraud steals just a little bit at a time
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FDA Proposes Guidelines for Healthcare Mobile Apps


The FTC said there was no evidence to support these claims. The marketers also falsely claimed the therapy was proven effective in a study published in the British Journal of Dermatology. The marketers sold about 15,000 downloads, most at $1.99.

While the FTC took matters in hand, the federal Food and Drug Administration has primary authority to regulate medical devices. In July, the FDA began taking comments on proposed guidelines for health mobile apps. Apps that would turn a mobile platform into a regulated medical device – such as to treat acne with light waves – are in the bull’s eye of this initiative.

The commercial success of these two apps probably depended to a great extent on their low price. Really, many users probably figured if they didn’t work, there wasn’t much harm. But many a lucrative fraud is based on charges so small – like a $9.99 fee crammed onto your phone bill – that the consumer either doesn’t notice, or figures it’s not worth going after. Multiply that times several thousand – or several million – and you’ve got a pretty nice haul.

Related Apps for Your Smartphone*

WebMD – Get trusted health information, wherever, whenever. Free
ELERTS – Send and receive emergency notifications. Free
Blood Alcohol Tracker – Calculate your blood alcohol content based on alcohol consumption, height, weight and sex. Free

*Please note that these apps are for informational purposes only, and neither LexisNexis nor endorses these apps or accepts liability for their use.

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