NAD kicks silent upstairs to the FTC

Rubik’s Redux?

Once completely obscure, fidget spinners are now a thing. Meaning that their existence, if not their actual purpose, has become known to you.

Dubbed by The New York Times “a Hula Hoop for Generation Z,” the fidget spinner has become ubiquitous in 2017, with all the attendant trappings of a runaway fad: hip underground status, explosive growth and sold-out supplies, think pieces on fidget-spinner significance, a pseudo-culture built around the product, and an inevitable, angry backlash.

Promises, Promises …

The popularity of the product relied, in part, on supposed health and therapeutic benefits. Spinners have been marketed as helpful devices for children with autism, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In the case of fidget spinner manufacturer, these claims caught the eye of the National Advertising Division (NAD), which launched an inquiry.

The company marketed its AMILIFE EDC Fidget Spinner products with a number of health-related claims, including “ADHD Focus Anxiety Relief Toys,” “Relieving ADHD, OCD, Anxiety, Stress …” and “Great for anxiety, focusing, ADHD, autism …”

NAD requested substantiation of these and other claims that the fidget spinner products will relieve health conditions.

The Takeaway

NAD claims that declined to respond to several contact attempts. In late October 2017, NAD took the next step and referred the matter to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC or Commission) for review. The Commission responded on November 16, 2017 that its investigation found the website was no longer in operation. Upon finding that was not currently advertising the product it found that no action was warranted. The FTC thanked NAD for the referral and affirmed its support of NAD and the self-regulatory process. The FTC relies on the self-regulatory process to relieve its caseload and generally takes up cases referred to it from the NAD in order to encourage advertisers to participate in voluntary NAD inquiries.

The backlash against the spinners proceeds apace, with teachers on the front lines, confiscating spinners and actually blaming them for increased classroom distraction. While some parents sing the spinners’ praises for providing stress relief and building concentration, at least one medical doctor held otherwise. Mark Rapport, M.D., director of the Children’s Learning Clinic at the University of Central Florida’s Department of Psychology, told the Daily Mail that “using a spinner-like gadget is more likely to serve as a distraction than a benefit for individuals with ADHD.”