New York Attorney General investigates misleading health app claims, hands out $30K in penalties

fitness apps and startups

The developers behind the Runtastic, Cardiio, and My Baby’s Beat from Matis apps have all been forced to change claims made about app performance, and pay $30,000 in penalties, following a 12-month investigation by the New York Attorney General’s office. The investigation examined whether the statements made about app performance were, “deceptive,” and if privacy polices could be improved.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said:

“Mobile health apps can benefit consumers if they function as advertised, do not make misleading claims, and protect sensitive user information. However, my office will not hesitate to take action against developers that disseminate unfounded information that is both deceptive and potentially harmful to everyday consumers.”

All three apps used the camera and sensors onboard a smartphone to measure a person’s heart rate, although in the case of Matis’s app, it was the heart rate of an unborn baby that was supposed to be measured. The NYAG office said none were FDA-approved, or had been tested to back up claims made in the marketing material.

For example, Runtastic never tested its app with users who had been exercising, despite advertising it was made for that purpose, and Cardiio hadn’t either. My Baby’s Beat hadn’t been tested alongside fetal heart rate monitors, despite claiming the app could be used as an alternative.

The app developers will pay $30,000 in penalties, change marketing material to remove misleading statements, add disclaimers informing users the apps are not FDA-approved, and provide more details about testing in the future. Additionally, privacy statements will be amended and require consent from the user before collecting sensitive data.

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