“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,” Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “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."
Ultimeyes sells for between $5.99 and $9.99 on various online stores and includes a series of visual exercises it claimed could improve vision. The app brought in more than $350,000 in sales from January 2012 through June 2015, according to the FTC's complaint.
But, the FTC alleged, the company didn't have scientific research to support all of its claims. The agency also alleged Carrot failed to disclose that some of the research it used to bolster its assertions was produced by a co-owner of the company, University of California Riverside psychology professor Aaron Seitz, in marketing.
As part of the settlement, Seitz, his co-owner Adam Goldberg, and the company are barred from making deceptive claims about the app's ability to improve users' vision going forward. Seitz and Goldberg also agreed to pay $150,000 into a fund for customer relief, according to the FTC.
But despite agreeing to a settlement, Carrot Neurotechnology argues it did have research to back up its vision claims.
"Carrot believes that its substantiation was more than adequate. Dr. Aaron Seitz, a leading researcher in vision science at the University of California Riverside, developed the application based on existing and widely-accepted scientific principles," the company said in a statement. "He also conducted three peer-reviewed studies on it." However, the company decided to settle so it could resolve the matter, according to the statement.
This isn't the first time the FTC has gone after apps making health-related claims. In February, the FTC announced a crackdown on the marketers of apps that claim to be able detect symptoms of melanoma.