Amazon rides out Echo Dot cat food controversy
Amazon has been cleared by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) after a television ad for its Echo Dot smart speaker activated a viewer's device and placed an order for cat food.
The commercial, which aired on 5th October, included a man saying, "Alexa, re-order Purina cat food," to which the virtual assistant replied: "I've found Purina cat food - would you like to buy it?" Amazon claims such ads are "marked" to prevent them from triggering responses from devices in homes, but one viewer’s device actually placed the order. They were able to cancel it, but complained to the ASA that the advert was "socially irresponsible".
"To shop with Alexa, customers must ask Alexa to order a product and then confirm the purchase with a 'yes' response to purchase via voice," an Amazon spokesperson said. "If you asked Alexa to order something on accident, simply say 'no' when asked to confirm."
"In this instance, the complainant had cancelled the order themselves, but we understood that had they not done so, the order would nonetheless have been cancelled automatically," the ASA commented. "Therefore, we 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. We concluded that the ad was not socially irresponsible and did not breach the code."