Power Balance: the End of a Shonky Fad

5 May, 2011

What can we learn from the short history of the Power Balance wrist bands in Australia?  It was a pseudo science fad that the Australian Skeptics played a part in ending.

The recent ACCC threat to prosecute retailers who continued to sell them has had an immediate chill effect.

Sports shops, health shops and retailers of all kinds have now removed Power Balance wrist bands from shelves and counters all over Australia.

How did it happen?  Who’s behind it?  Can we do the same to (insert your favourite pseudo science product here)?

What follows is a potted history of the end of the Power Balance fad.  (If you disagree or have more to add please make a comment below.)

How did it all start?

2007 (USA)

Two young entrepreneurial brothers, in Orange County California, Troy Rodarmel and Josh Rodarmel started the company in early 2007.

The business model is quite straight forward: design colourful, stylish wrist bands that can be manufactured very cheaply in China and sell them locally at a much higher price.  Market the bands by making health and technology claims and Read the rest of this entry »

The ACCC Moves on Power Balance

23 December, 2010

After the TGA Complaints Panel ruled on Power Balance bracelets last month, the promoters of Power Balance were asked to put up this disclaimer on their web sites.  To no one’s surprise, they didn’t.

Now stepping in to take on Power Balance is a regulatory body with a little more grunt, the ACCC. Unlike the TGA, the ACCC can force business to act responsibly if they won’t do it voluntarily.

Power Balance Australia has given the ACCC a number of undertakings that include:

– not make any further claims to the effect that the products will improve the user’s balance, strength and flexibility.

– not, in conjunction with the products, make claims that “Power Balance is Performance Technology” or use the phrase “Performance Technology”.

– not make claims that Power Balance products are “designed to work with the body’s natural energy field”.

The company has 14 days to comply Read the rest of this entry »

TGA calls on Power Balance to withdraw claims and advertising

16 November, 2010

The promoters of Power Balance wrist bands are in trouble again. This time the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has ruled against them. 

In part the decision says:

In reaching this conclusion, the Panel noted that the claims made in the advertisements were extraordinary to such a degree that no reasonable retailer could publish them on the basis of assurances from the product sponsor, without requesting evidence that such claims could lawfully be made about the product.

The TGA are asking for the: Withdrawal of representations, Withdrawal of advertisement and the Publication of a retraction.

To re-cap;  Power Balance wrist bands are coloured silicone rings with two small plastic holograms glued on.  The popular silicone bands sell for about $60 (Aus).  A pendant version of the Power Balance sells for about $90 (Aus). The promoters of Power Balance claim Read the rest of this entry »

Shonky Award for Power Balance

27 October, 2010

Consumer advocacy magazine Choice are running their fifth annual, 2010 Shonky Awards.  It’s a kind of name and shame exercise.  It’s with great pleasure I announce that one of the Australian Skeptics’ and Victorian Skeptics’ favorite products has gained a Shonky – the Power Balance band.

Congratulations to Power Balance on wining this prestigious award (with tongue firmly in cheek).

As any Skeptic will tell you, the $2 Placebo Band works just as well as the $60 Power Balance band.  They look very similar and are made from identical materials.

The Australian Skeptics and Placebo Band got a nice mention at the award ceremony, many thanks to Choice for their efforts.

Previous Vic Skeptics posts about magical rubber bands:

Power Balance … or Placebo?

Video fest: the Power Balance wrist band and the arm press


Power Balance … or Placebo?

17 October, 2010

Power BalanceAh, the Power Balance band.

You’ve probably heard of it. It was ubiquitous in this year’s AFL season and made headlines around the world when the likes of Shaquille O’Neal started wearing them.

So what does it do? Interestingly, its makers are careful to avoid claiming that it does anything at all.

The “What Is Power Balance?” section of their website still says “Coming Soon”. And has done so for months.

What Is Power Balance. Hmmmm. But never mind that. Elsewhere the site is positively jam-packed with testimonials about the band’s ability to improve your balance, increase your flexibility, enhance your endurance levels and, of course, help you win basketball games. Thanks Shaq.

Now, the skeptical among us suspect there’s nothing more to it than a simple placebo effect.

After all, there’s a complete lack of scientific evidence supporting the band’s effects, not to mention the implausible idea that having a hologram strapped to your arm makes you run faster.

Read the rest of this entry »

Video fest: the Power Balance wrist band and the arm press

16 August, 2010

It appears that some dubious marketing tools are being employed in the sale of the Power Balance wrist band.

First is the use of celebrity endorsement.  This practice is unfortunately all too common.  Celebrities don’t appear to be any better at critical thinking than your average Joe (or Jo) in the street.

The second dubious practice is the use of physical tests that aren’t objective.  The method of pressing down on someone’s arm to test muscle strength can easily be manipulated (either deliberately or mistakenly) by the person doing the pressing.  This methodology has been around for quite some time and is known as “Applied Kinesiology”.  This is rather difficult to describe in writing.  Fortunately Richard Saunders has put together an excellent video that shows you everything you need to know.

Now, check out this uncritical video review of the Power Balance wrist band.  In this video a Read the rest of this entry »