Scam School shows how EKEN sells their PowerBand

Award-winning magician Brian Brushwood over at ScamSchool shows how the scam works, and uses a “Placebo Band” to demonstrate this exact scam:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpLt0oUWfOk

So, I’m still disappointed in the current outcome of the EKEN Complaint made earlier to the TGA, and subsequently to the ACCC. I am hoping for a situation where EKEN are forced to acknowledge their bullshit marketing techniques.

ACCC Responds to EKEN Complaint

I’m planning on calling the ACCC on Monday morning to bring the focus towards EKEN’s use of “Applied Kinesiology” to sell their goods.

After receiving the letter I took a look at EKEN’s website, which was recently updated to promote Billy Slaters’ addition to their “Hall of Shame”.

EKEN words their Technology page to make it appear as if they are talking about the properties of the product itself; it’s a poor excuse for what they ARE selling, compared to what they mislead people to believe they are purchasing. The website contains an image with little context and can lead people to the believe that this is how to “test” the effects of the PowerBand.

It explicitly depicts that the EKEN Powerband can, and will affect a persons’ balance through a comparison.

"Balance" with and without the EKEN Powerband

In the second image, the person performing the test will push directly down towards the ground, resulting in the centre of gravity being shifted away from the body, making it harder to withstand pressure applied to the arm.

In the third image, the person performing the test pushes down, but towards the lifted foot. This slight change results in the centre of gravity being shifted TOWARDS the body, thus making it EASIER to withstand pressured applied to the arm.

To me, it seems as though if you’re the tester, you HAVE to be actively scamming the subject. Why does it have to be a conscious act of deception? Because the outcome of the “test” is determined by a deliberate act by the tester; I find it hard to believe anyone could not do this test and “accidentally” come out with negative results without the PowerBand and positive results with the PowerBand every time.

Again, the short of it is that Applied Kinesiology (another pseudo-science) is being re-appropriated for the testing of a person’s balance once wearing the product.

EKEN have videos of this scam being pulled on Athletes, who lap up this “technology” and are astounded by it. EKEN outright exploits these as “testimonials” to their PowerBand’s efficacy.

SensaSlim Assets Frozen over Bogus research

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has won an order to freeze SensaSlim’s assets after a continuing investigation found evidence of fraud for  the research for their weight-loss spray. SensaSlim, which is allegedly an intercontinental research institute based in Geneva, claimed they had strong weight-loss results from 11,000 voluntary users of its spray.

The ACCC made its first move last week without notice to SensaSlim, effectively freezing the company’s account while it contained $282,000 after it demonstrated strong evidence of fraudulent conduct being engaged in by SensaSlim; including the allegation that the Geneva-based ‘Institute’ that had reportedly conducted the study was fictitious.

Australian newspaper “The Age” questioned SensaSlim about photographs that were allegedly SensaSlim executives – After the discovery that they were in fact medical practitioners at a Minnesota Lung Clinic, and questioning by The Age the photos were later changed.

The ACCC contends that it appears that SensaSlim has perpetrated a calculated fraud and had to date extracted some $6 million for ‘area managership’. As a result, SensaSlim’s were refused their cross-application for release of part of the funds.

Since the action taken by the ACCC against SensaSlim,  The Age has also revealed that law firm Slater and Gordon would also bring legal representation against SensaSlim, which could see SensaSlim facing a $4.2 million class action by more than 70 people for misleading them in to buying a franchise to sell the bogus “weight-loss” product.

A Brief Timeline

A more in-depth look at this time line is viewable at the Victorian Skeptics website.

September 2010

  • SensaSlim is listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

January 2011

  • The CRP receives an anonymous complaint about SensaSlim.

March 2011

  • The CRP meets to consider the anonymous complaint lodged about SensaSlim. The determination is not favourable, but the CRP gives more time for SensaSlim to respond despite their attempts to contact them and subsequently does not publish their determination.
  • Dr Ken Harvey lodges a complaint with the CRP about SensaSlim.
  • The CRP publishes their determination on the anonymous complaint on their website. Within one hour the determination is removed from the CRP website after receiving representations from SensaSlim claiming that they had not received an invitation to respond to the allegations.
  • The CRP decides to withdraw the determination and give SensaSlim more time to respond.
  • SensaSlim demands that Dr. Harvey makes no further comment against them and threatens legal action.

April 2011

  • The Supreme Court of New South Wales acknowledges receipt of a Statement of Claim by SensaSlim Australia Pty Ltd against Dr. Harvey.
  • The CRP sets aside making determination on the Dr Ken Harvey complaint against SensaSlim as the CRP is unable to make determinations for products if there is current legal action.
  • A recent newsletter from SensaSlim to its distributors discusses the legal action against Dr Harvey:

Peter O’Brien didn’t accept such a fate but together with his lawyers found a way to defend the company. This defamation action, which could be in the courts for a year or two or even longer, basically gives an iron clad protection that nobody can raise a complaint against SensaSlim to the CRP and hurt us.

The Streisand Effect

The recent scrutiny of the company stems from a Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation. SLAPP‘s are intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost and time of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition.

Because of the SLAPP, SensaSlim has invoked “The Streisand Effect“, so named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence (amongst 12,000 other residences) and sue the aerial photographer inadvertently generated further publicity – and as a result 420,000 more people visited the website.

A notable occurrence of libel abuse was in 2008 by the British Chiropractic Association against Simon Singh who criticising their activities in a column in The Guardian. The result was a filing of formal complaints of false advertising against more than 500 individual chiropractors within one 24 hour period, with one national chiropractic organisation ordering its members to take down their websites; and in April 2010, Simon Singh won his court appeal for the right to rely on the defence of fair comment. Two weeks later the BCA officially withdrew its lawsuit, ending the case.

While initially, SensaSlim had sanctions imposed against them after an anonymous report about their product,  recent legal representations by SensaSlim and against Dr. Ken Harvey to gain their product more shelf time have led to further investigations – and a lot of negative publicity.

Instead of accepting their demise for their fraud, SensaSlims’ insistence has now led to further scrutiny, their assets frozen, and legal action against them. It is likely they will lose more than they have made.

Australian Skeptics are taking pledges of financial support for Dr. Harvey, should that need arise. The latest information is made available at Australian Skeptics.

I highly recommend reading.

FishBarrel Australia

Earlier this week Xibis, owned by Simon Perry of the “Adventures in non-sense” blog released a Browser Plug-in for Chrome that makes reporting pseudo-scientific “therapeutic” products to the UK’s Advertising Standards Authority exceptionally easy.

“All development was done with the support and collaboration of my web software development company Xibis. The team have helped enormously with the technical development and have provided the server infrastructure. Xibis are specialists in building these sorts of web based productivity systems.” writes Simon.

The release was quickly picked up by The Lay Scientist and published by The Guardian: FishBarrel: New browser plugin lets you bust quacks in seconds.

For everyday consumers and the general public, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) does not require you to list out the particular legislation that an advertisement or website breaches (unless you are involved in the industry) — But, they say it helps.

Simon writes about FishBarrel: “FishBarrel also tracks all text complained about in a central database. When you turn on FishBarrel, any text complained about by other users is automatically highlighted.”

This will of course prevent you from submitting duplicate complaints to the TGA or ACCC – Awesome!

Effective, AND efficient! I love productivity!

Tonight, I mentioned some names over Twitter to see if we here in Australia could get the same thing going, knowing full well this would ultimately render Report a Rort virtually obsolete.

To my surprise, Simon responded within minutes offering to “hook it in” to FishBarrel to complain to the relevant regulatory bodies — making FishBarrel an Internationally Effective tool in combating Pseudo-science medical claims!

At this stage, only Xibis knows when this will happen – but I’m very excited about it!

Update: Simon has noted he is also incorporating American Regulators, the FTC and FDA and may pursue adding compatibility with New Zealand’s regulatory bodies too!

Therapeutic Merry-Go-Round

Last week the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) knocked back my submission to them about the EKEN PowerBand. (See: http://reportarort.wordpress.com/2011/04/10/submitted-eken-powerband/)

“Thank you for your continued interest in this matter.

We did refer the matter to the TGA (as I advised you previously). The power bands have been assessed by the TGA not to be therapeutic goods. Unless products such as these make claims for therapeutic use, they are not considered by the Complaints Resolution Panel to be within its jurisdiction. For this reason, this complaint will be referred to the ACCC. I will ask the ACCC to keep you informed.”

Having had waited a week with no response so far, I looked in to why PowerBalance was a different story.

It was, and wasn’t.

The TGA said the same thing to Robert Smallwood, who claimed to have submitted a complaint to them about PowerBalance: “Not a therapeutic device”.

Robert wrote to the TGA as part of their Transparency Review: http://www.tga.gov.au/pdf/consult/tga-transparency-review-submission-1012-robert-smallwood.pdf

Robert makes a point that is well-known, especially to those selling bogus products: The TGA fails to enforce its findings against everyone, including “complimentary” and “alternative” practitioners.

I suspect it may be the lack of information on EKEN’s website; PowerBalance were quite specific in their website, but EKEN hides behind the ignorance of its’ customers – preferring to allow them to guess what they do and how they work, rather than to explicitly explain the mechanism.

Subsequently, Dr. Ken Harvey was able to compel the TGA to investigate the claims by PowerBalance, and as a result the complaint was found generally found to be justified.

It was those same justified complaints by Ken Harvey that formed the basis for my own complaint to the TGA about EKEN’s PowerBand. Same claims of Flexibility, Endurance, Balance, and Strength – all bullshit.

So, it’s intriguing to know why the TGA followed through against PowerBalance, but is seemingly trying to keep away from prosecuting EKEN for their therapeutic claims.

So, since I’m waiting for a response from the ACCC, I might take a look at Phiten Australia till then.

 

By the way — PlaceboBand. Cheaper, and does what it says.
You can go here to buy one for only $2.00 + P&H

 

SkepticBros PlaceboBand

SkepticBros PlaceboBand