February 19, 2018
A TV ad for the Amazon Echo Dot, seen on 5 October 2017, featured people using the device in different situations. In the first of these, a man’s voice said, “Alexa, re-order Purina cat food”. The “Alexa” virtual assistant was then heard saying, “I’ve found Purina cat food. Would you like to buy it?”.
A complainant whose Echo Dot had placed an order for cat food after the ad played challenged whether the statement “Alexa, re-order Purina cat food” was socially irresponsible. The ASA found that the ad had indeed caused the complainant’s Echo device to initiate an order for cat food despite measures taken by Amazon to prevent its ads interacting with devices that might “overhear” them. However, the ASA understood that purchases were required to be actively confirmed by the customer before a transaction was undertaken.
In this instance, the complainant had cancelled the order himself or herself, but the ASA understood that had they not done so, the order would nonetheless have been cancelled automatically by software implemented by Amazon (to avoid unwanted orders in precisely this situation). Therefore, the ASA understood that it would not be possible for a purchase to be made without the account owner’s knowledge, even in instances where technology, intended to stop ads interacting with devices, had not been effective. As such, the ASA concluded that the ad was not socially irresponsible and did not breach the BCAP Code rule 1.2 (Social responsibility). To read the ASA’s Ruling on Amazon Europe Core Sarl (14 February 2018), click here.