While you can find a smartphone app for just about everything, when it comes to potential health matters, make sure to see a doctor instead.
Case in point: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently settled lawsuits against two firms that marketed melanoma detection apps — Mole Detective ($4.99) and MelApp ($1.99). Both companies are now prohibited from making health claims about these apps.
On Monday, the FTC said it has approved a final consent order barring Health Discovery Corporation from making “deceptive or unsupported claims that its app, MelApp, could help diagnose or assess consumers’ melanoma risk.”
According to the FTC’s February 2015 complaint, MelApp instructed users to photograph a mole with a smartphone camera, along with inputting other information. MelApp would then supposedly calculate the mole’s melanoma risk as low, medium, or high.
The FTC charged that Health Discovery Corporation deceptively claimed the app accurately analyzed melanoma risk and could assess such risk in early stages, and that its accuracy was scientifically proven.
The FTC said Monday that the final order bars the company from claiming that “any device detects or diagnoses melanoma or its risk factors, or increases users’ chances of early detection, unless the representation is not misleading and is supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.”
The final order also prohibits Health Discovery Corporation from making any other deceptive claims about a device’s health benefits or efficacy, or about the scientific support for any product or service, and requires the company to pay $17,963.
“App developers and marketers must have scientific evidence to support any health or disease claims that they make for their apps,” said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in an earlier statement.