Posted 01 August 2011
A consumer lodged a consumer complaint against the advertising for Glomail’s “iRenew” bracelet, which is claimed: “Feeling week and run down? iRenew is the proven, revolutionary bracelet infused with BioField technology, that helps increase your body’s energy, strength & wellness. • The Problem: Stress to our body’s personal energy system, commonly known as the biofield, is delivered ot [sic] in many ways. From daily stress to electromagnetic radiation, these factors are now believed by many scientists and doctors to disrupt our sensitive biofield. • The Solution: Bringing your biofield to a more balanced state is believed by many to increase mental and physical performance, reinforce natural immunity to stress and enhance a sense of well-being. • How iRenew Works: iRenew® Energy Balance SystemTM products with Biofield TechnologyTM harness the natural frequencies which are everpresent in our environment and use them to tune and rebalance your biofield back to a more natural, coherent state”.
In essence, the complainant argued that these claims are patently nonsense and cannot be substantiated. Once again, the respondent has taken to “duping consumers by selling a product with claims that border on science fiction, or beyond”.
|iRenew Arm Bracelet / HA Steinman / 18027|
Ruling of the : ASA Directorate
In the matter between:
Dr Harris Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)
Glomail (Pty) Ltd Respondent
25 Jul 2012
Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent’s advertising for its “iRenew” bracelet, which is presented as follows on the respondent’s website www.glomail.co.za:
“Feeling week and run down?
iRenew is the proven, revolutionary bracelet infused with BioField technology, that helps increase your body’s energy, strength & wellness.
Stress to our body’s personal energy system, commonly known as the biofield, is delivered ot [sic] in many ways. From daily stress to electromagnetic radiation, these factors are now believed by many scientists and doctors to disrupt our sensitive biofield.
Bringing your biofield to a more balanced state is believed by many to increase mental and physical performance, reinforce natural immunity to stress and enhance a sense of well-being.
How iRenew Works:
iRenew® Energy Balance SystemTM products with Biofield TechnologyTM harness the natural frequencies which are everpresent in our environment and use them to tune and rebalance your biofield back to a more natural, coherent state”.
The advertising also includes images of a man flexing his bicep, a woman stretching and a couple who appear to be taking a break after a work-out. These images feature the words “FEEL THE ENERGY LIVE YOUR LIFE TO THE FULLEST”; “INCREASED BALANCE & MOBILITY” and “INSTANT STRENGTH & ENDURANCE” respectively.
In essence, the complainant argued that these claims are patently nonsense and cannot be substantiated. Once again, the respondent has taken to “duping consumers by selling a product with claims that border on science fiction, or beyond”. The complainant specifically highlighted the claims he has an issue with.
RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE
In light of the complaint, the following clauses of the Code were considered relevant:
• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation
• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims
Adams & Adams attorneys, on behalf of the respondent, firstly pointed out that the material had actually been removed prior to the ASA informing it of the complaint. The decision to remove the material was unrelated to the complaint and as such means that the matter has now become academic.
It added that it was at all times in possession of substantiation, which is confidential and cannot be disclosed to any third party. Same confidential substantiation was submitted to the ASA for consideration.
The respondent explained that the one study was conducted at Southwest Oklahoma State University during 2010 on 100 candidates. This study supports the claims at issue. The second report from the same university at the same time relates to six athletes randomly picked. This also supports the claims made. Both reports and studies were done under supervision of Mr Josh Musick, strength and conditioning coach, and an established expert in this field.
In addition, a report prepared by the Centre for Biofield Sciences was attached, detailing findings of a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study on this product, along with reports from the Quantum Biology Research Lab in New York, and a report from Maria Syldona, Ph.D.
Finally, verification from the Energy Medicine Research Institute, results of a nutritional microscopy test, and a “gas” discharged visualisation study were also submitted as substantiation.
ASA DIRECTORATE RULING
The ASA Directorate considered all the relevant documentation submitted by the complainant.
At the outset, it is noted that the respondent has not provided an unequivocal undertaking to permanently withdraw its advertising. As such, the Directorate was compelled to still consider the merits and determine whether or not the substantiation was adequate and unequivocally verified the claims contested.
Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code requires advertisers to hold verification that either emanates from, or was evaluated by an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. It is also trite that the Directorate expects product-specific substantiation, as the end-consumer ultimately buys the product as a whole, and not its individual components.
In this regard, the respondent relied on the following documents, which were submitted in confidence and were subject to a non-disclosure agreement with the relevant institutions or suppliers:
A research study conducted by the Southwest Oklahoma State University during 2010, which involves 100 candidates that were randomly selected and who completed five different tests each. It concludes that a person wearing an iRenew bracelet will see an increase in balance, flexibility, strength and endurance.
An additional report of another study conducted by the same university, relating to six athletes who were randomly picked to participate in 7 different recognised tests. The report concludes that the bracelet improves balance in all directions by a substantial percentage and that it increases endurance.
A report by the Centre for Biofield Science which relates to a randomised, double-blind, placebo controlled study to assess the efficacy of this bracelet. The study involved 105 participants.
Reports dated 3 and 5 December 2010 from the Quantum Biology Research Lab in North Port, New York. The report confirms the validity of the claims at issue.
A report from Maria Syldona, Ph.D. containing comments relating to the efficacy of the bracelet on health and well-being.
A report submitted by the Energy Medicine Research Institute on a human clinical double-blind crossover pilot study of the efficacy of this bracelet. The study was conducted on 14 subjects, and shows that the bracelet improves performance in the areas highlighted in the advertising. It was conducted under the supervision of Dr Lisa Tully.
The results of a nutritional microscopy test conducted by a nutritional microscopist, Linda Toler, and certified by a medical practitioner, Dr Robert O Young. The tests relate to 10 individuals and how their blood was changed at microscopic level after wearing the bracelet for only 10 minutes.
A copy of a “Gas Discharge Visualisation Study’ conducted by P Krishna Madappa, the co-founder of the Institute of Science, Spirituality and Sustainability in Taos, New Mexico.
Obviously, the Directorate’s first concern would be whether or not the expert or expert entities relied on by the respondent meet the criteria of being an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate.
Mr Josh Musick, the expert relied on insofar as the research done at Oklahoma State University was concerned, appears to be a “Cross Country & Strength / Conditioning Coach” at the university (see http://faculty.swosu.edu/josh.musick/). The respondent has not submitted anything to show that Mr Musick should be regarded as a credible expert, or even an expert in the field to which the claims relate. The advertising contextualises the efficacy claims in terms of, inter alia, “electromagnetic radiation”, “mental and physical performance”, “immunity to stress” and what the respondent refers to as “biofield”, and there is nothing to show that Mr Musick is to be regarded as a credible expert in any of these fields.
Accordingly, the Directorate does not accept Mr Musick (or his research articles) as suitable evidence in terms of the requirements of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
The second set of research emanates from the “Centre for Biofield Sciences”. While the respondent made the point that this centre had conducted over 200 clinical trials, the Directorate notes from the centre’s website (www.biofieldsciences.com) that it promotes, inter alia, products called “energyDOTs”, which are said to “optimise natural energy” and have the following benefits:
“Are health, fitness and wellness* products for everyone.
Offer protection from the harmful effects of man-made electro- magnetic frequencies from wireless (mobile phones being the most ubiquitous example) and other electronic technologies.
Are supported by scientific evidence for all of the above.
Enrich existing product ranges.
Appeal to a number of markets in addition to health.
Are both easily affordable and an obvious personal investment.
Offer good margins for distributors and resellers”.
The website also states, inter alia, that “…celebrities, sports personalities and consumers around the world starting to buy new ‘energetic’ wristbands designed to balance their biofield. The newest trend on the West Coast of the US is to have a bio-energy coach as well as a personal trainer. From all the evidence and research available now, we know that the next big health trend gathering momentum now is concern about and care for the biofield”.
Given that the Centre appears to promote and sell these “energyDOTs” for commercial purposes, they clearly have an interest in supporting efficacy claims for such products, and are therefore not in a position to offer a truly independent and unbiased view.
Accordingly, the Directorate rejects the Centre for Biofield Sciences (or their research) as an independent and credible expert for the purposes of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
The next set of documents are said to emanate from “Quantum Technology Research Lab”. The respondent has not, however, submitted anything to show why the Directorate should accept Quantum Technology Research Lab as an independent and credible expert in the field. The Directorate was also unable to find any useful information for Quantum Technology Research Lab online.
Accordingly, the Directorate does not, at this time, regard Quantum Technology Labs as independent or credible experts in the manner required by Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
The document titled “Comments for iRenew on Health and Well-being” emanates from “Maria Syldona, Ph.D”. As with the other experts, the respondent provided no motivation for why the Directorate should accept her as an independent and credible expert. From http://www.bizspirit.com/spkrfullbio/science/spkr_rein_glen_maria.html and http://www.visionaryaudiovideo.com/vis-cart-bio.asp?id=42 it would appear that her Ph.D. was obtained in Clinical Psychology, which is arguably irrelevant for the purposes of this matter.
In addition, she does not comment on the actual efficacy of the bracelet but rather on the various understandings of the concept of “health” and how one’s interpretation of this concept influences one’s perception of it.
Accordingly, the substantiation put forward from Maria Syldona is irrelevant for the purpose of this ruling, and does not meet the criteria established in Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
A report submitted by the Energy Medicine Research Institute, under guidance from Lisa Tullly PhD, deals with the efficacy of the iRenew bracelet in improving flexibility, strength and endurance. No information was supplied by the respondent as to why the Directorate should accept the Energy Medicine Research Institute (or Lisa Tully for that matter) as an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate. While it referred to “details of her experience and expertise” appearing on the last page of her report, the report submitted to the ASA was incomplete. However, the Directorate was able to find some information from the Energy Medicine Research Institute website www.energymedicineri.com.
The Directorate was unable to find any indication that it has previously accepted either of these entities, and notes that according to the information obtained from the website http://www.energymedicineri.com/dr-lisa-tully-phd-and-founder-energy-medicine-research-institute.html, Lisa Tully is a pharmacologist and toxicologist by training. It is not clear how this qualifies her as an independent and credible expert in the field to which the claims relate.
Accordingly, the Directorate is not prepared, in the absence of reason to do so, to accept Ms Tully or the Energy Medicine Research Institute as suitable experts in accordance with the provisions of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code at this time.
The “nutritional microscopy tests” relied on by the respondent were submitted in the form of a PowerPoint slideshow, bearing the respondent’s company name and logo. It contains no affirmation from either Ms Linda Toler who allegedly conducted the testing or Dr Robert O Young, who allegedly verified the findings. The Directorate is therefore reluctant to accept this as independent and credible verification as required by the Code, because there is nothing to show that the information conveyed in the respondent’s PowerPoint presentation is accurate and represents the findings and interpretation of these individuals.
It is also noted that http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_O._Young states that Dr Young “… received several degrees from Clayton College of Natural Health, a now defunct unaccredited distance learning school …” and that “… Live blood analysis [as relied on by the respondent and seemingly Dr Young] … lacks scientific foundation, and has been described as a fraudulent means of convincing patients to buy dietary supplements and as a medically useless ‘money-making scheme’ …” It adds that “Live blood analysis has been described by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as an ‘unestablished laboratory test’, or test that is not generally accepted in laboratory medicine”.
In addition, the “findings” reported in the PowerPoint slides appear to be anecdotal in nature, and the Directorate is not convinced that this is adequate for the purpose of supporting the claims made in the advertising.
For all the above reasons, the Directorate rejects the documents dealing with the “Nutritional Microscopy Test” as inadequate for the purposes of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code”.
Finally, the respondent relied on another PowerPoint presentation detailing the alleged findings of a study done by “P Krishna Madappa”.
Again, it appears on the respondent’s slides bearing its name and logo. In addition, it contains a disclaimer at the bottom reading “This is a pilot study of 1 individual and does not indicate or suggest similar outcomes for all successive users. Further study with additional subjects is recommended”. Lastly, the Directorate notes that this presentation merely seems to, or attempts to verify that the “Human Energy Field (biofield) of the participant was directly influenced in aligning towards coherence that is a state of ‘focus and vital well-being’.” It is unclear what relevance this has to the advertised efficacy.
The details discussed in the report merely appear to show that the subject had a stronger energy field as a result of wearing the respondent’s bracelet. The respondent has also not submitted any arguments as to why P Krishna Madappa should be regarded as an independent and credible expert.
For all the above reasons, the Directorate rejects the presentation and findings of P Krishna Madappa insofar as the provisions of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code are concerned.
Given the above, the Directorate finds that the respondent has not produced sufficient substantiation for the claimed efficacy of its bracelet.
The advertising at issue is therefore in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code.
By virtue of this, the advertising is likely to mislead people and is in contravention of Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code.
The Directorate notes that the respondent claims to have removed the advertising that gave rise to the dispute. As such, there is no need to instruct the respondent to remove the advertising. However, the respondent is instructed to refrain from publishing this advertising again in future.
The complaint is upheld.