The website www.energydots.com, seen on 15 December 2020, included text on the home page which stated “Frequency technology uses information, in the form of fields or vibrations, to create beneficial change. Each DOT stores and radiates an intelligent combination of harmonising fields”.
On a separate page, a product listing for the smartDOT device stated “While we are strong advocates of the digital detox, it’s not always easy to switch off. That’s why we’ve created EMF protection device, smartDOT, which is programmed to retune electromagnetic frequencies emitted by your wireless devices. This, in turn, has been reported to help us to feel more energised, better focussed and less stressed”.
A blog post on the website also stated “smartDOT is simply designed to harmonise them (EMF’s) to a level safer for the body to absorb. smartDOT is programmed with Scalar Energy. The energy emitted by smartDOT does not affect the functioning of a phone or any other device. Instead, it alters or retunes the EMF before it reaches and interacts with the human body.”
The complainant challenged whether the efficacy claims relating to the smartDOT device were misleading and could be substantiated.
Global EMF Solutions Ltd stated that the claims in the ad related to discussions around the potential harm caused to the human body by electromagnetic frequency radiation (EMF). The effect of EMF on the human body was demonstrated by the effectiveness of the SmartDOT in various tests that they had carried out.
They provided copies of a blind and double-blind study carried out on humans and a customer questionnaire. The blind study was carried out in 2009 and they stated it found that the electroDOT (later rebranded and named the smartDOT) was an effective means of neutralising negative effects of electromagnetic radiation from mobile phones.
The double-blind study, carried out in 2011, was conducted using Medical Thermal Imaging which was a non-invasive screening technique that allowed the examiner to visualise and quantify changes in skin surface temperature. They said that the results of the imaging tests and a participant questionnaire showed that there was a significant benefit to using SmartDOT in the reduction of tissue heating, balancing of the energies of the brow, throat and heart chakras, and reduction in ailments such as headaches and respiratory symptoms in the subjects tested.
They also provided an extract of an in vitro study carried out on blood samples, and copies of a survey in which 267 customers were asked what effects they noticed from using the smartDOT. They said that the results showed that in the majority of responses the customer felt a benefit from using the smartDOT, for example, they felt more energetic.
Global EMF Solutions provided summaries of various articles which related to the harm caused by EMF and the purported link between cancer and wireless devices.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand from the claims made on the website that EMF as encountered in normal daily life in the general population were harmful to the body, and that the smartDOT protected users from EMF emitted from wireless devices and helped users feel energised, more focused and less stressed.
We reviewed the evidence submitted by Global EMF Solutions. Notwithstanding that we had only seen a summary of the results of the customer survey, we considered that the self-reported subjective responses to a customer questionnaire did not constitute adequate evidence to substantiate the claims made in the ad that the smartDOT had an effect on EMF emitted from wireless devices, or that it had any benefits to health.
The 2009 single-blind study involved 100 participants and involved scanning participants with “Resonant Frequency Imaging”, “Gas Discharge Visualisation” and “Poly contrast Interference Photography” before and after they had used a mobile phone, and with and without the smartDOT device. The 2011 double-blind study involved 60 participants and used two image screening techniques, “Medical Thermal Imaging” and “Electro Photonic Imaging”, which looked at changes in the skin surface temperature and “photon emissions” from a participants’ finger tips when using the smartDOT device. That was used in conjunction with a user questionnaire to monitor the test group’s overall wellbeing and symptoms such as headache, back pain, stress and anxiety, digestive complaints, insomnia, respiratory system and weakness over a period of a month. Notwithstanding that the majority of the conditions referenced in the double-blind study were not mentioned in the ad, and that neither study featured sample sizes that would indicate that the recorded effects could be generalised to the general population, we were concerned that the image screening techniques in both studies were not plausible, established scientific ways of measuring changes in EMF levels reaching the body. Additionally, the studies were carried out in 2009 and 2011, around ten years before the ad was seen, using only mobile phones available at the time, and no other wireless devices. We again considered that subjective responses to a customer questionnaire in the double-blind study did not constitute adequate evidence that using the smartDOT alleviated the referenced medical conditions.
We were concerned that neither study had appeared in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal nor had they been objectively reviewed by a suitably qualified individual possessing relevant expertise before being submitted to us. We were also concerned that the basis of the ad’s claims was that EMF emitted from wireless devices such as mobile phones and WiFi were harmful, when we understood there was no robust scientific evidence that demonstrated that was the case.
Because we had not seen evidence that EMF as encountered in normal daily life in the general population were harmful and because we considered that the efficacy claims for the smartDOT device had not been adequately substantiated, we concluded that the ad was misleading.
The ad breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so. (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation. (Substantiation).
The ad must not appear in the form complained of. We told Global EMF Solutions Ltd not to make efficacy claims for their products in the absence of adequate substantiation - for example, by stating that the smartDOT protected users from EMF emitted from wireless devices and helped users feel energised, more focused and less stressed. We also told them not to make claims that suggested that EMF from such devices was harmful to health.