An Amazon advert which placed an order for cat food on a customer's Echo Dot has not been deemed socially irresponsible.
A customer complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) when their Echo Dot was activated by an advert which featured a man saying: "Alexa, re-order Purina cat food". The device then replied: "I've found Purina cat food. Would you like to buy it?" The complainant's Echo Dot placed an order for the Purina, but they realised what had happened and cancelled it immediately.
Amazon defended the advert, saying there is technology in place on the smart speaker devices to stop incidents like this happening. Adverts are marked so that, when heard by a device, they do not trigger a response - and there is further failsafe processes in place in case this technology does not work for any reason.
In addition, any order placed must be confirmed by the customer. In this instance, the complainant cancelled the order themselves but the device would have cancelled it automatically if they had not.
Clearcast, which pre-approves adverts in the UK, confirmed Amazon had assured them during the clearance process that there was a security step in place so people must verbally confirm an order placed through the Echo once Alexa asks for active confirmation. Amazon had also said there was technology in place to stop advert audio setting off Amazon devices in people's homes.
The ASA investigated the advert under the Broadcast Code rule 1.2 for social responsibility. The code says: "Advertisements must be prepared with a sense of responsibility to the audience and to society." After an investigation, the ASA concluded that the advert was not socially irresponsible because of the technology in place to stop unwanted orders.
The ruling, released on 14 February, said: "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."