February 14, 2018 2:42 pm
Updated: February 14, 2018 2:44 pm

Amazon Echo mistakenly orders cat food after hearing TV commercial

An Amazon.com Inc. Echo Dot device is displayed at the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

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A British man’s Amazon Echo Dot accidentally ordered cat food after overhearing a TV commercial for Alexa, which featured a man asking it to buy Purina pet products.

While the customer cancelled the order before it was processed, the incident prompted a complaint to the British Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). The man, who was not identified, said the Alexa commercial that led to the purchase was “socially irresponsible” and should not be aired.

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The ASA announced Wednesday that the commercial doesn’t break advertising rules in the country, saying the company has taken steps to prevent such cases.

In an email to Global News, Amazon explained that purchases made through its smart speakers must be confirmed by customers before being processed.

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“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,” the statement read. “If you asked Alexa to order something by accident, simply say ‘no’ when asked to confirm.”

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The company’s spokesperson added that the Alexa mobile app also has a setting that allows all voice purchases to be turned off. Users can also opt for a setting that requires a unique confirmation code to be entered for every order.

“Additionally, orders placed with Alexa for physical products are eligible for free returns,” the statement explained.

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While these current settings can prevent accidental orders, there have been cases in the past of Amazon products buying things without being explicitly asked.

In January 2017, a news anchor’s words prompted several complaints from viewers after their devices placed orders for doll houses.

The CW6 news anchor from San Diego was telling a story of a child who ordered a doll house from Alexa, The Verge reported.

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The anchor’s words —  “I love the little girl saying, ‘Alexa order me a dollhouse.'” — prompted viewers’ Echos to order the doll house.

A September 2017 episode of TV show “South Park,” which featured a character repeatedly yelling prompts to the machine, also prompted several Amazon and Google Home products to place orders.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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