Thursday, January 6, 2011

Placebo Band: It's The Real Deal!

Why pay Power Balance $29.95 for the privilege of wearing their $0.05 rubber bracelet when you can pay $2.00 for an accurately labeled Skepticbros Placebo Band and see the modest profit donated to charity?

Thanks to grassroots skeptical activism in Australia the discredited distributors of the Power Balance line of woo were ordered in December 2010 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to:

  • not make any claims about its products that are not supported by a written report from an independent testing body that meets certain standards;
  • offer a refund to consumers who feel they have been misled;
  • publish corrective advertising to prevent consumers from being misled in the future;
  • amend the Australian website to remove any misleading representations;
  • remove the words 'performance technology' from the brand itself; and
  • implement a compliance program.
So if Power Balance has admitted in Australia "that there is no credible scientific basis for the claims and therefore no reasonable grounds for making representations about the benefits of the product" why haven't they changed their promotions here in the States?  Do they think the American public is so poorly educated in basic science, so lacking in critical thinking skills, and so fooled by paid celebrity endorsements, that no one but a few skeptical buzzkills will notice?  Well, they did sell $35 million worth of the silicone trinkets in 2010...

At least the Power Balance effort has no body count, unlike the antivaxers.

UPDATED TO ADD: I sent the following question to Power Balance USA on 1 February 2011.

"Power Balance Australia Pty Ltd has admitted 'that there is no credible scientific evidence that supports our claims [that Power Balance wristbands improved your strength, balance and flexibility] and therefore we engaged in misleading conduct.'

I presume you are selling precisely the same product they used to so why haven't you changed your promotional materials here in the States?"

I'll let you know the moment I receive a reply...


Today, 9 February 2011, I received not one but two replies from Power Balance USA. The first was in response to my inquiry submitted on the of January. The second was responding to yesterday's message. Both replies were precisely the same form email, each containing a juicy mix of fallacies, lies, and obfuscation. I especially relished their complaint that the ACCC insisted on the "narrow criteria of randomized, double-blind scientific studies." I'm pretty sure complaining to them or ranting about them accomplishes little, but their business model is based on fraud even more than woo and watching them drain the wallets of the gullible really grates on my nerves. Anyway, here's what they had to say...

"Hello Michael,

Thank you for writing us.

We understand your concerns regarding the ruling in Australia, and the articles circulating the different medias.

Here is our statement regarding the situation:

Power Balance products work. The existing reports out there are fundamentally incorrect. Power Balance did not make any claims that our product does not perform.

We are committed to bringing our performance technologies to every athlete in the world from professional to amateur to recreational. Our community of believers continues to grow each week. While our previous claims in marketing ads are not up to Australia’s ACCC standards – we stand behind our products. The belief of thousands of consumers and athletes who wear our products are not wrong.

A preliminary study recently conducted on the product’s performance variables was commissioned and the findings have determined that the product does in fact provide a “statistically significant” result on the wearer’s performance. We are committed to further evaluating the product’s performance parameters so that we can continue to provide products that enhance the wearer’s lifestyle.

Numerous actual consumer testimonies supporting the wristbands’ performance were provided to the ACCC by Power Balance. Despite that, they requested Power Balance remove marketing claims until it could provide them with their narrow criteria of randomized, double-blind scientific studies that supports the use of those marketing phrases.

Power Balance voluntarily agreed to stop using those phrases. Power Balance believes and wants users to believe that we will do whatever it takes to appropriately, and with honor and integrity make our products available to every consumer in every market in the world.

In summary, we absolutely stand behind our products. There is no doubt in our minds, as well as thousands of consumers (be they professional athletes, trainers, weekend warriors, etc.), that our products work. To be clear, we did not make any statements referencing that we were a fraudulent company; a “scam”; the product is ineffective; or anything else similar to such statements in the media.

If you are not a US customer, please let us know the country from which you are inquiring, so we may direct you to the appropriate parties.

In regards to your request for a refund (US customers), we are happy to address your request in a timely manner. In order to complete this request we will need a receipt dated within 6 months from the date of purchase, from an authorized dealer, along with the product in order to process your refund.

If you would like to proceed with your request, please visit. After filling out the form located there, please use the click to print button in order to print out the form correctly. Along with the form you will need to send the product back to Power Balance for which you are requesting the refund for, as well as a copy of your proof of purchase dated within 6 months. These items are required to process the refund. Please send the requested items to:

Attn: Returns
20512 Crescent Bay
Suite 108
Lake Forest, CA 92630

We will process your request as quickly as possible on a first come, first serve basis.

Warmest regards."