Power Balance Australia bust: reason wins, no thanks to Priceline

Power Balance bracelets on sale at Priceline 'Pharmacy'

Last year, I wrote about Power Balance wristbands, Priceline Pharmacy and Small World Social. The pharmacy was selling the thoroughly debunked stupidity indicators at checkout counters, and the Small World ‘social media experts’ they employed sent critics private Facebook messages when we tried to fix this

Last week, we got some good news. After a solid arse-kicking from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Australian distributor of Power Balance wristbands has gone bust:

The Australian distributor of the controversial Power Balance wristbands will be placed into receivership today, with the owner of the business saying that sales have “evaporated” since the business provided undertakings to the ACCC to stop claiming the wristbands could improve balance, strength and flexibility.

A lesson learned, perhaps?

[Distributor Tom] O’Dowd says Power Balance Australia worked with the ACCC for about six months prior to the regulator’s announcement and was happy to comply as it could not produce scientific evidence to support its claims.

“There is a degree of naivety on my part as well”

Oh now, what’s this? Has Tom learned his lesson? Does he now renounce bullshittery? Does he realised that science lets us distinguish bollocks from reality? Hey, how about a little contrition for all the trusting people he profited from while talking nonsense about ‘performance technology’?

No such luck:

“There is a degree of naivety on my part as well. We thought we were selling a sporting product and we didn’t realise that we were subject to the Therapeutic Goods Act.”

So he was just bitter that he got caught? Seems like it:

“For me personally, they could put a gun to my head if they like, I will never stop believing in this product. I have seen it work and I have experienced it working,” he says.

Shame on Priceline Pharmacy

This can’t be the end of this story. In this instance, thanks largely to the complaints the skeptical community made, we have scored a victory. But as I said in my post last year on Priceline and Small World Social:

Consumers have a reasonable expectation that a business branding itself as a pharmacy will offer trustworthy and effective products. Dispensing chemists are an essential part of the healthcare system, and to leverage that credibility to market nonsensical pseudoscientific scams is a betrayal of trust. Caveat emptor? Not really: it is in no way unreasonable to expect a healthcare provider to, well, provide healthcare.

'Health expert' Gerald Quigley

'Health expert' Gerald Quigley

It is Priceline’s job to be stopping bullshit before it reaches their shelves. They have an ethical duty to sell healthcare, nomatter how profitable or in-demand the unscientific ‘alternatives’ may be. In this case, it strikes me as unlikely that consumer protection was a motivation in their removal of Power Balance bracelets from sale. Our inability to get any response from Priceline, and the attempts by Small World to actively suppress our complaints back this up.

The campaign for evidence-based healthcare matters, and Priceline are still apparently resistant. ‘Priceline’s Health Expert’ (they only have one?) is a herbalist. And, disturbingly, they sell homeopathy. I won’t be shopping there.

Tell Priceline to do their jobs. Their customers deserve healthcare, not profitable woo-woo.


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