CARU Recommends Spiral Toys Modify Broadcast Ad, Modify Privacy Practices; Company Says it Will Do So

New York, NY –  April 26, 2016  – The Children’s Advertising Review Unit has recommended that Spiral Toys, the maker of Cloud Pets plush toys and operator of the attendant Cloud Pet mobile application modify its television advertising to better disclose that batteries are not included with the toy and modify its privacy practices. The company has agreed to do so.

CARU is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

CARU monitors advertising directed to children and online services for compliance with CARU’s Self-Regulatory Program for Children’s Advertising, including guidelines on Online Privacy Protection, as well as with the federal Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).

Cloud Pets can receive and record messages send from a mobile device. A small plastic heart on the toy lights up when there is a message is waiting. Squeezing the animal’s paw causes the message to play.

The mobile app is required to support full functionality of the toy. The landing page on the app has an image of an animated teddy bear and is accompanied by music.  After the app is downloaded, the animated teddy bear makes cute baby sounds.  A user can create an account if they’ve already purchased the toy or leave the app and go to the CloudPets website to purchase the toy.

If a user chooses to register for an account he or she must first accept the Terms of Service by clicking, “I accept.”  To create an account, the visitor must enter a display name, email address and password.

Upon its initial review, CARU had two concerns:

  • Whether the commercial adequately disclosed that batteries are not included
  • Whether the app should have an age-gate before collecting personally identifiable information from visitors during registration.

In response to CARU’s inquiry, Spiral Toys said that it had inadvertently omitted an audio disclosure regarding the fact that batteries are not included with an initial purchase of the product.

Regarding the app, the company said that while it did not consider the app to be directed to children, it would modify it to comply with CARU’s Guidelines and COPPA by implementing an age gate before allowing users to register for an account.

In its advertiser’s statement, the company said it “appreciates CARU’s recommendation on how to enhance App registration to improve parental control and to make it clearer that the Product does not target children.  Operator is already in the process of implementing CARU’s recommendation and believes that doing so will further improve the ability of children to enjoy the Product with their parents.”