Mobile Health App Makers Settle Allegations Of Misleading Marketing Claims

A trio of smartphone health apps that claim to do things like measure your heart rate or the vitals of your unborn child have agreed to settle allegations brought by the state of New York that these products made promises they couldn’t keep.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman announced Thursday that his office had reached settlements with three mobile health application developers resolving allegations they used misleading claims and engaged in irresponsible privacy practices.

The state says these settlement deals with Cardiio, Runtastic, and Matis come after a year-long investigation of mobile health applications.

As part of the investigation, the AG’s office says it found that the three developers initially marketed their apps without processing sufficient information to back up their marketing claims.

In the case of Cardiio — an app that claims to measure heart rate — the AG’s office alleges the developers had not actually tested its accuracy with users who engaged in vigorous exercise, despite marking the app for that purpose.

The developers were also accused of falsely claiming that the app, which has been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times, was endorsed by MIT.

According to Schneiderman, the makers of Runtastic, an app that measures heart rate and cardiovascular performance under stress, allegedly failed to test its accuracy vigorous exercisers, even though the app was marketed for that purpose.

The AG’s office also took issue with My Baby’s Beat, an app that claimed to turn any smartphone into a fetal heart monitor. The state alleged that app developer Matis never conducted tests comparing the app’s performance to that of traditional fetal heart monitors or Doppler machines. Additionally, Matis allegedly made misleading implications that the app was approved by the Food & Drug Administration.

Under the AG’s settlements, the developers agreed to pay $30,000 in combined penalties.

The developers must also provide additional information about testing of the apps, change ads to make them non-misleading, and post clear and prominent disclaimers informing consumers that the apps are not medical devices and are not approved by the FDA.

Additionally, the companies have agreed to make changes to protect consumers’ privacy, such as requiring affirmative consent to their privacy policies. They must also disclose that they collect and share information that may be personally identifying, such as users’ locations, device number, and other data.