Nov 22 2011

Power Balance Files for Bankruptcy

The news that Power Balance has filed for bankruptcy is both encouraging and disheartening at the same time. I’ll explain – but first for background: Power Balance is the company who made millions of dollars selling little plastic wrist bands embedded with a cheap hologram. It love it when people become millionaires selling pet rocks or hoola hoops. Come up with a unique idea that catches on and you deserve to rake it in. Power Balance, however, made their millions selling dubious claims.

They claimed that their little pieces of plastic could improve balance, energy, and athletic performance. Their marketing was very effective, with celebrity sports star endorsements and live demonstrations in malls. Their demonstrations were indistinguishable from old parlor tricks that have been recycled numerous times to sell many dubious products.  The SkepticBros even started selling (at their cost of about $1) Placebo Bands, which they believe are just as effective (i.e. nothing but the placebo effect) as Power Balance or any similar product.

The skeptical community has seen this all before. We targeted the claims of Power Balance, exposing the fact that they are highly implausible, the claims themselves are incomprehensible techno-babble, and there is no credible scientific to back them up. The Australian Skeptics lead the charge, resulting in the ACCC ruling against Power Balance, who then had to offer an apology, retraction of their claims, and refund to anyone who wanted it.

In the US there was a class action law suit filed in LA. That case has just been settled, with Power Balance agreeing to pay 57 million dollars to refund customers allegedly duped by the company. This is what prompted Power Balance to announce that they will be declaring bankruptcy. The company also just tweeted, however, that they will not be going out of business. I don’t know if this is false hope, bravado, or if it means that the bankruptcy is just a maneuver to minimize the damage from the lawsuit, with full plans on going forward.

All of this is encouraging – the skeptical community was able to expose the unscientific and implausible claims of a slick marketing campaign, and within a short period of time the company went from naming a sports arena to bankruptcy.

But it is also disheartening because this was just one round (although successful) in an endless game of whack-a-mole. There are already other products on the market that essentially are making the same claims as Power Balance. In centuries past medicine men sold questionable magnetic products with similar claims. More recently we have had the Q-ray bracelet, and now there are many products lining up to take Power Balance’s place. You can buy Energy Armor, with the power of negative ions. The website claims:

Energy Armor is a life technology designed to work with your body’s natural energy field.

Sound familiar?

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7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Power Balance Files for Bankruptcy”

  1. Karl Withakayon 22 Nov 2011 at 11:00 am

    They have filed under chapter 11, which is usually a restructuring bankruptcy with plans to stay in business.

    I haven’t been able to find details on the filing yet, but I don’t think the courts generally let you file bankruptcy just to avoid paying out on a law suit. I believe they have to be able to prove inability to pay their debts. If they see the PowerBalance business likely to maintain its current level of success with revised marketing, they might have a hard time convincing the court they will be unable to repay their debts.

    It will be interesting to see the details of the filing and how it plays out in bankruptcy court. .

  2. ConspicuousCarlon 22 Nov 2011 at 11:53 am

    Wowzers:
    articles.businessinsider.com/2011-11-21/sports/30424544_1_power-balance-class-action-lawsuits-bankruptcy

    Due to the unauthorized marketing tactics of an
    independent distributor in Australia and the
    proliferation of counterfeit operations of which
    we obviously have no control, Power Balance
    has become the target of number of class
    action lawsuits.

    Of course, blame the counterfeiters! I hope that doesn’t stop Power Balance from their future plans…

    We will continue to bring innovative new
    performance technologies to athletes around
    the world, and are in the process of introducing
    Performance Mouth Gear (PMG) to the
    marketplace through the end of 2011 and into
    2012. Created in partnership with a
    neuromuscular dentist, PMG turns a traditional
    mouth guard into a device to help relax the
    muscles in the face and jaw, which allows for
    proper alignment in the neck and spine and
    optimal breathing. Featuring proprietary silicon
    Bite- Pad and V- Form technologies, we are
    introducing a $40 product to market that would
    have cost $2 ,500 or more just one year ago.

    So now their customers are bound at the wrists, and will soon have mouth implants. Phase III will obviously be an attachment at the rear end so everyone can be linked into a human centipede. Just imagine the undefeatable balance of a creature with 1,000 feet!

  3. Kobraon 22 Nov 2011 at 10:54 pm

    While this is a small step for us, we need to hit these companies where it hurts–their distributors. Walgreens, CVS, and the other pharmacies that sell this crap need to be put into check by the scientific community. That or we should start our own line of pharmacies. Hell, why don’t we start our own hospital system devoted to science-based medicine?

  4. banyanon 23 Nov 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Holy shit those Energy Armor brand Energy Bands are amazing. Listen to this:

    “What Does the Energy Armor Band Do?
    It makes you feel great! The Energy Armor bracelet contains a strong negative Ion compound made of rich natural minerals that are encapsulated in the silicone and the frequency it creates works with the body’s natural energy flow. Negative Ions have been helping mankind feel better since the beginning of time. This natural technology is quietly helping thousands of people and Energy Armor wants to be part of this solution. As a company, we want to make sure our product has benefit to those wearing it.”

    Something about the writing style reminds me of the old Real Ultimate Power website. It sounds like the rambling of a preteen, or possibly something written in another language and then translated imperfectly to English.

  5. Kanadienon 24 Nov 2011 at 8:22 pm

    The article refers to a neuromuscular dentist – who is that mystery person? Is it Dr. Anil Makkar of Nova Scotia, Canada? Makkar was the founder of the now itself bankrupt PPM company – Pure Power Mouthguard? On the old PPM website, he claimed to have fitted Shaq and a number of PowerBalance athletes with PPMs. He has been promoting the Power Balance mouthguard on Twitter and on his FB page. After charging hundreds of dentists about $5,000 each to become certified to offer a $2,500 PPM product, and bankrupting PPM, he now says that a $40 piece of plastic, with no occlusion, has the very same benefits. Nice way to stick it to one’ s friends and supporters!

  6. LivingWithMormonson 25 Nov 2011 at 11:37 am

    Some days I feel like the dude in the Matrix who wanted to be inserted back in and never remember he knew the truth. Living in reality makes me lose hope in humanity.

  7. daijiyobuon 01 Dec 2011 at 12:50 pm

    This is actually true and on my part mostly inadvertent:

    recently I began instructing two 63-hour medical science courses, as happens all year round. One pet peeve I have is that the textbook doesn’t actually talk about science as a methodology / engagement with the world and people’s claims / define science. So, I spend an hour or two at the beginning covering such: science itself, placebo, double-blind trials. Videos I use include John Stossel’s expose on foot detox pads, Susan Koeppen’s on these plastic bands, and Richard Dawkins on dousing

    (articles or videos area available, respectively: at http://abcnews.go.com , http://www.cbsnews.com, and http://www.youtube.com )

    Anyway, the next week about ten students came in and told me about how they confronted these bracelet sellers in local malls while holiday shopping.

    That was unexpected. I often forget that the classroom’s contents ACTUALLY carries over into students’ other realms.

    -r.c.

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