Who: the ASA, Amazon, third party app developers
When: 25 March 2015
Law stated as at: 8 May 2015
Two complaints were made to the Advertising Standards Authority against Amazon Europe Core Sarl in relation to apps listed on Amazon.co.uk claiming to repel mosquitos by emitting ultrasonic sounds. The complaints challenged whether the efficacy claims in the product descriptions were misleading and capable of substantiation.
Amazon stated that, in each case, the app developer uploaded and was responsible for the product description, not Amazon and that it had not reviewed any substantiation. It also removed the apps.
1. the claims could not be substantiated and were likely to mislead consumers (therefore breaching rules 3.1 and 3.7 of the CAP Code); and
2. as the apps were available through the Amazon Appstore and marked “sold by Amazon”, Amazon was the advertiser and therefore responsible for the breaches.
Why this matters:
The first part of the decisions is unsurprising. The product descriptions contained bold claims (“the best mosquito repellent with time”; “It heals mosquito bites before they happen!”). According to both rulings, “Amazon did not provide evidence” supporting these.
The second part is worthy of examination. Platforms may be responsible for the app efficiency claims they display. It is unclear to what extent this responsibility can be softened by marking the app as “sold by developer”. Implementing a review mechanism would increase administrative costs and delay apps from going live. The significance of these rulings is underlined by the advice the ASA published the week before last.