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Smartmobe app claimed it will improve your eyesight. Now its maker is coughing up $150k

Watchdog fines biz after ridiculous claims

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has fined a developer $150,000 who claimed its mobile apps could improve a user's eyesight.

The watchdog on Thursday said it struck a settlement with Carrot Neurotechnology Inc that also included provisions barring the company from claiming its "Ultimeyes" app was scientifically proven to improve eyesight.

According to the FTC charges [PDF], Carrot had been running advertisments that pitched the Ultimeyes app for iOS and Android as a way to improve vision.

The ads, gathered in 2014 but alleged to have been running since 2012, pitch Ultimeyes as a tool to improve vision when reading, boost athletic performance, and reverse the effects of aging. The ads ran on the Ultimeyes website as well as in YouTube videos and the Apple App Store, Amazon Appstore, and Google Play Store.

In addition to making the false claims, the FTC alleged in its complaint that Carrot wrongly presented scientific research in its ads and on its site suggesting its product could improve vision. The FTC said that not only did the research not back up the claims that Ultimeyes improved eyesight, but it was carried out by Carrot's own chief scientist without any disclosure of material connection.

"This case came down to the simple fact that 'Ultimeyes' promoters did not have the scientific evidence to support their claims that the app could improve users' vision," FTC consumer protection bureau director Jessica Rich said in announcing the settlement.

"Health-related apps can offer benefits to consumers, but the FTC will not hesitate to act when health-related claims are not based on sound science."

Under the terms of the settlement [PDF], Carrot Neurotechnology will still be able to sell its app for Android and iOS (it currently sells for $9.99 on the App Store), but cannot run any ads deemed misleading or not backed by "competent and reliable" scientific research.

The settlement is the latest in an ongoing campaign by the FTC to crack down on developers who make bogus health claims about their medical apps. The commission, citing rules on deceptive advertising and dubious scientific research, has made examples of app vendors who recklessly claim medical benefits of their wares by filing complaints and extracting hefty fines. ®

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