FTC settles suit with AuraLabs over blood pressure app

By Heather Mack
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Newport Beach, California-based AuraLabs has agreed to settle charges from the Federal Trade Commission over claims that their Instant Blood Pressure app was accurate and could even replace traditional blood pressure cuffs. Additionally, AuraLabs Founder and CEO Ryan Archdeacon was also accused of leaving five-star positive reviews of Instant Blood Pressure in app stores without disclosing his connection to the company.

The describes how Aura, which does business as AuraLife and AuraWare, sold the IBP app through Google Play and Apple’s App Store for between $3.99 and $4.99, and sales reached more than $600,000 in the time between June 2014 and June 2015. To use the app, users put their right index finger over the phone’s rear camera lens and held the base of the phone over their heart. The company claimed the app could replace an actual medical device, yet offered no evidence and also gave no disclaimers stating that it could be inaccurate. In March of this year, showed the IBP app was significantly less accurate than a traditional around-the-arm cuff.

“For someone with high blood pressure who relies on accurate readings, this deception can actually be hazardous,” Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC said in a statement. “While the Commission encourages the development of new technologies, health-related claims should not go beyond the scientific evidence available to support them.”

The settlement means AuraLife and Archdeacon are barred from making unsupported claims in the future, and if they want to endorse their own products, they need to disclose any material connections.

Archdeacon emphasized that while the FTC barred the company from making claims, it did not dispute that IBP provides “estimates of blood pressure to the performance characteristics published by the company.” AuraLife can still sell and market the IBP app, and the website features a disclaimer that people should not rely on the app for medical advice or diagnosis. Specifically, it states the opposite of the previous marketing message: “It is not as accurate as and is not a substitute for a cuff or other blood pressure monitor.”

Neither AuraLife nor Archdeacon will have to pay a monetary fine or admit to alleged fault or wrongdoing, and the company viewed the settlement in a positive, if slightly frustrated, light, writing on the company website that they considered the settlement as a “win for the company.”

“We are happy to settle this matter with the Federal Trade Commission,” Archdeacon said in a statement. “Its resolution means we can now refocus or time, energy and resources on furthering digital health innovation. Ultimately, I believe our dialogue with the Commission was a learning experience for both parties and we are excited about our vision for the future.”

The company also stated it was as committed as the FTC to the protection and safety of consumers and wanted to be transparent about the performance of their products, but they weren’t entirely on the same page as the Commission.

“That being said, our company feels that the agency’s heavy handed approach can stifle innovation with a costly and bureaucratic process,” Archdeacon said. “The company believes a conversation regarding potential concerns early on would have allowed the Commission and the company to reach a swift resolution, saving time, energy, and taxpayer dollars.” 

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