Claims on a www.amazon.co.uk product page for a mobile device app stated "mosQUITo - Sonic Repellent ... Product Features: Sonic mosquito repellent Unique combination of traditional ultrasonic tones with the audible sounds of flapping dragonfly wings". The "Product Description" stated "Enjoy a happy bite-free life with mosQUITo, an ultrasonic mosquito repellent. Audio and Ultrasonic Mosquito Repellent - Dragonfly Strength! The mosQUITo application is a universal mosquito repellent with no ecological footprint. It heals mosquito bites before they happen! What makes our repeller unique is its combination of traditional ultrasonic tones with the audible sounds of flapping dragonfly wings. This combination gives the repeller unparalleled effectiveness. mosQUITo relies on a combination of various sonic signals, both in audible and ultrasonic ranges, to repel biting fertilised female mosquitoes ... The various ultrasonic signals mimic the sounds produced by mosquito males, which already fertilised female mosquitoes try to avoid. The ultrasonic signal variety is designed to cover most genera of the Culicidae family and that makes mosQUITo the most versatile and effective known application of that kind on the market. Tests conducted ... demonstrated, that up to 80% of subjects carrying on their bodies a smartphone running mosQUITo remained bite free after an hour-long exposure to mosquito infested areas. Without wearing a mosQUITo running device, the rate of getting bitten by a mosquito at least once under similar testing conditions was 100% ...".
An internet user challenged whether the efficacy claims for the app were misleading and could be substantiated.
Amazon Europe Core Sarl (Amazon) said the app developer had uploaded the product description and they were not aware of substantiation the developer may have had in support of the app. Accordingly, they removed the app from the website.
The ASA noted the listing stated that the app was sold by Amazon, and not the app developer. In addition, it appeared on the main part of their website and not in the third-party Marketplace. For those reasons, we were satisfied that Amazon was the advertiser and therefore, they held responsibility for compliance with the Code.
The product listing described the application (the App) as having a unique combination of traditional ultrasonic tones with the sound of flapping dragonfly wings. Therefore, we expected Amazon to hold robust scientific evidence, ideally in the form of randomised clinically controlled trials carried out on human subjects. Those studies should demonstrate how the combination of ultrasonics technology and audble dragonfly wings flapping, used by the App on a mobile device, repelled mosquitoes.
In addition, the listing also claimed "The mosQUITo application is a universal mosquito repellent" and "The ultrasonic signal variety is designed to cover most genera of the Culicidae family" which implied the App could also be used against mosquito species not found in the UK. Consequently, we expected their evidence to include studies carried out on all species of mosquito.
Furthermore, the listing referred to the outcome of studies that had been carried out using the App; the reporting of which we considered to be claims of the App's efficacy. We expected to see evidence to support those claims.
Amazon did not provide evidence in support of their claims, but we welcomed their assurance that they had removed the product listing complained about. Because we had not seen any evidence from either Amazon or Weird Apparatus, the app developer, which supported claims that ultrasonics technology in combination with audible dragonfly wing flapping delivered through the App could repel mosquitoes or the efficacy claims made about the trials, we concluded the claims had not been substantiated and were likely to mislead.
The claims breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation)
We welcomed that Amazon Europe Core Sarl had already removed the listing. We told them to not to repeat efficacy claims for anti-mosquito apps using ultrasonic technology unless they held suitably robust evidence.