I have great news of another big skeptic victory: Power Balance, a company that makes magic rubber wristbands, has been cited with making misleading claims about the bands.
<Nelson Muntz>HA HA!</Nelson Muntz>
Like many of the skeptic victories this year, this one comes from Australia, specifically the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), a government watchdog group that has legal authority over businesses. And they’ve exercised that authority: according to the Australian Skeptics (linked above), the ACCC has ordered Power Balance to
• remove misleading claims from their website and packaging
• publish advertising informing consumers that they made claims that could not be substantiated
• offer refunds to all consumers who feel they may have been misled and
• remove the words “performance technology” from the band itself.
I’ve written about similar bands before; basically, these are silicone wristbands, sometimes marketed with a hologram inserted into them which are "tuned to your body’s frequency", that manufacturers claim will help you in all sorts of manners including athletic performance, balance, stamina, and so on. Now, far be it from me to say that a product cannot possibly do what the manufacturers claims lest we need to erase everything we have learned about science, physics, and the Universe itself for the past three centuries, but I suspect these bracelets’ abilities to do anything beyond the placebo effect may be slightly exaggerated. And I’m glad the ACCC agrees.
Every couple of months I do a short interview with astronomer Seth Shostak called "Skeptic Check" (née "Brains on Vacation") as part of the SETI’s Are We Alone radio program. In this month’s segment I diss the Power Bands that are popping up everywhere. These are simple rubber wristbands that the manufacturers claim help your body’s balanace, stamina, performance, and so on, despite no evidence that they can do so, and what look like extremely fishy demonstrations.
I wrote more about this topic in a post last week on the blog. I’ll note these Power Placebos are under fire in other places as well; for example the Australian government is casting a jaundiced eye at them as well. I love to see governments taking action when it comes to medical consumer protection!
Here’s a direct link to the interview MP3. Are We Alone is a great podcast, and I recommend subscribing. Every week there’s something fun and interesting on it!
Have you heard about these Power Bands, or Power Balance bracelets? The claims by the manufacturer and at countless demos are that these bands improve balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength by employing holograms which send frequencies that somehow interact with your body’s frequencies or electric field or glaven or some other undefinable manifestation.
Yeah. You can imagine what I think about that. And if you can’t, I’ll be clear: that claim is complete nonsense. Literally, it makes no sense. Holograms don’t emit anything, frequency or otherwise; there’s no such thing as your body’s frequency; and there’s no way inside the laws of physics that a rubber band with a cheap plastic hologram in it can affect your body, unless a) you’re allergic to rubber, or 2) it hits you at meteoric velocities.
We clear? OK.
So why on Earth would such a product be sold with a University logo on it? Yet, that’s what’s happening with the University of Colorado, among other institutions. Power Bands are being sold with the CU logo on them.
Now let me be careful here. These bands are being sold by the Power Force company online, as well as by the CU Athletic Department. The Athletic Department is separate from the University itself, and is the entity that licenses the logo used ("Ralphie" the buffalo).
Still, unsurprisingly, some local skeptics have taken exception to this, and have contacted the University about it. What did surprise me was how dismissively they were rebuffed. Read More