FTC Charged Mole Detective Sellers with False Advertising Earlier this Year
The final defendant remaining in a Federal Trade Commission lawsuit challenging false or unsubstantiated claims for a set of purported “melanoma detection” apps is barred from making any further deceptive health claims about his products under a settlement with agency.
Avrom Lasarow has settled FTC charges in connection with the so-called “Mole Detective” family of apps. He and his company, L Health Ltd., allegedly advertised the apps online, where they sold in the Apple and Google app stores for up to $4.99.
“We haven’t found any scientific evidence that Mole Detective can accurately assess melanoma risk,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “If you’re concerned that a mole may be cancerous, please see a health professional.”
Lasarow and his company took over marketing the Mole Detective app in August 2012, after it was originally developed and marketed by Kristi Kimball and her company, New Consumer Solutions LLC, and added derivative apps like “Mole Detect Pro.”
Lasarow, Kimball, and their companies were named in a complaint filed by the FTC in February 2015. According to the FTC’s complaint, the Mole Detective apps instructed users to photograph a mole with a smartphone camera and input other information about the mole. The apps then supposedly determined the mole’s melanoma risk to be low, medium, or high. The FTC alleged that the marketers deceptively claimed that the apps accurately analyzed melanoma risk and could assess such risk in early stages. The marketers lacked adequate evidence to support such claims, the FTC charged.
Kimball and her company agreed to settle the charges prior to filing, and on May 29, 2015, the court entered a default judgment against L Health. Lasarow has now agreed to a stipulated order settling the agency’s charges, which will resolve the action.
Under the proposed settlement order announced today, Lasarow is prohibited from making any misleading or unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits or efficacy of any product or service, including that a device detects or diagnoses melanoma. It also includes data and recordkeeping provisions to help ensure his compliance with the order. Finally, the proposed order imposes a $58,623.42 judgment, which is suspended based on Lasarow’s inability to pay. If he is later found to have misrepresented his finances, the full amount will immediately become due.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed stipulated order was 4-1, with Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen voting no and issuing a separate dissenting statement. It was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
NOTE: Stipulated orders have the force of law when approved and signed by a federal district court judge.
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 Strategy’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 efforts to protect consumers from misleading 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.
Mitchell J. Katz
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection