Esoteric smartphone vibration claims will face new scrutiny
Here’s the tagline on the home page of Vitalizer App’s website: “The Vitalizer™ was specifically developed to harmonize disorganized, aged or damaged Morphic Fields and Frequencies.”
This requires some unpacking.
The term “morphic field” originates from the research of a former Cambridge University biochemist and cell biologist named Rupert Sheldrake. Sheldrake’s research led him to conclude that “morphogenetic fields work by imposing patterns on otherwise random or indeterminate patterns of activity.” In other words, there are patterns in nature that stave off chaos by creating the structures of the world around us – including the shapes and internal structures of plants and animals, our memories and psychological habits, even our social structures. According to Vitalizer’s website, electromotive forces and other environmental pollutants damage and disrupt our own individual morphic frequencies, leading to accelerated aging and other issues. And that’s where the app comes in.
The Vitalizer is a smartphone app that, its marketing claims, generates vibrations that can “renew the influence of your own ‘morphic frequencies’” to have a “positive effect on your entire system.” When the app is played over or near water and other beverages or applied directly to the body itself, a person’s morphic frequencies are harmonized, the marketing claims, leading to improved balance, hydration, strength, thought processes and other benefits.
In March 2018, the Electronic Retailing Self-Regulation Program (ERSP, which is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is administered by the Advertising Self-Regulatory Council [ASRC] of the Council of Better Business Bureaus) announced that it was referring the Vitalizer’s advertising to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for review.
At issue was the company’s failure to respond to an earlier ERSP inquiry. ERSP staff had requested substantiation of claims like the ones outlined above, including these:
“The Vitalizer TM was specially developed to harmonize disorganized, aged or damaged Morphic Fields and Frequencies. How would you like to drink better tasting hydrating water? Smoother tasting wine? Boost your energy from your coffee or tea? Improve your energy, flexibility and focus?”
The company was given two opportunities to provide a substantive response to ERSP’s initial inquiry and failed to do so. This issue underscores how failing to have adequate substantiation for advertising claims, and subsequently ignoring self-governing entities, can land companies in hot water. The FTC relies on industry self-regulation to help it conserve the commission’s limited resources. When advertisers refuse to cooperate with the ASRC and it refers a matter to the commission, FTC staff almost always investigates.
We’ll keep an eye out for future news about the FTC’s reaction to the Vitalizer’s advertising claims.