The California-based marketers of a software application for mobile devices and personal computers have agreed to stop making deceptive claims that their “Ultimeyes” app can improve users’ vision in order to settle FTC charges. Under the terms of a proposed settlement with the FTC, Carrot Neurotechnology, Inc. and its co-owners have also agreed to disgorge $150,000.
“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,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “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.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, since 2012, Carrot Neurotechnology, Inc. and its co-owners, Adam Goldberg and Aaron Seitz, have advertised and sold Ultimeyes on the company’s website and through third-party app stores including the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, claiming it is “scientifically shown to improve vision.”
Sample online advertisement for the Ultimeyes app.
Ads for Ultimeyes stated that the app, which sells for between $5.99 and $9.99, would “Turn Back The Clock On Your Vision.” The ads further claimed that users would benefit from “comprehensive vision improvement” for activities such as sports, reading and driving, and that using the app would reduce the need for glasses and contact lenses. The app is based on a series of visual exercises related to reading speed, contrast sensitivity and low light conditions among other elements.
The ads further claimed that studies, including those conducted by Aaron Seitz, prove Ultimeyes works. The FTC alleges that Seitz’s studies and other “scientific research” do not prove Ultimeyes improves vision. The FTC also alleges the marketers failed to disclose Seitz’s affiliation with the company when touting his studies in advertising.
The proposed settlement requires Carrot and its owners to have competent and reliable scientific evidence before making the vision claims challenged in the FTC complaint for Ultimeyes and similar products, or claims regarding the health benefits, performance, efficacy, safety, or side effects of any product or service. The proposed order also prohibits them from misrepresenting any scientific research, and it requires them to clearly disclose any connections with anyone conducting or participating in scientific research they cite as substantiation for their claims, and with anyone endorsing their products.
The Commission vote to issue the administrative complaint and accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 4-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through October 19, 2015, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Comments can be submitted electronically.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.
The FTC is a member of the National Prevention Council, which provides coordination and leadership at the federal level regarding prevention, wellness, and health promotion practices. This case advances the National Prevention Council’s goal of increasing the number of Americans who are healthy at every stage of life. These cases are part of the FTC’s ongoing effects to protect consumers from misleading health advertising.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.