FTC axes apps that claimed to zap zits

'No app for that,' says agency as it settles false advertising charges with makers of anti-acne apps

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) last week said it had reached agreements with developers of two smartphone apps who were charged with making false claims that their software could cure acne.

"When it comes to curing acne, there's no app for that," said Jon Leibowitz, the chairman of the FTC, in a statement Thursday.

The FTC's action was the first-ever against overblown health claims by mobile apps, the agency said.

AcneApp and Acne Pwner, which were available on Apple's iOS App Store and Google's Android Market, respectively, claimed that they treated blemishes and pimples with colored light produced by smartphones.

The FTC called the claims "baseless" and accused the makers of AcneApp of misusing a scientific study on light-based acne therapy to convince consumers that the app worked.

According to the FTC, AcneApp, which was priced at $1.99 on the App Store, was downloaded more than 11,000 times; the Android-based Acne Pwner, meanwhile, was purchased by approximately 3,300 consumers. Acne Pwner was priced at 99 cents.

Both apps have since been dropped by the App Store and Android Market.

AcneApp received widespread media coverage in late 2009 and early 2010 after its debut, with stories about the iPhone app appearing on The Huffington Post, ABC News and the U.K's Daily Mail websites.

The proposed settlements with the two apps' makers bar them from making acne-treatment claims and require them to pay the FTC. The agency tagged the developers of AcneApp, one of whom is a dermatologist, for $14,294, while the sole developer of Acne Pwner will pay $1,700.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more articles by Gregg Keizer.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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