BBB National Programs Archive
NAD Recommends Behavioral Technology Group Discontinue Advertising Claims for ‘Pavlok’ Aversion Therapy Wristband
New York, NY – Dec. 9, 2017 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Behavioral Technology Group, Inc., discontinue all challenged advertising claims for the company’s “Pavlok” device, a wristband that the company said was designed to help users break “bad habits” through the administration of an electric stimulus.
NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation. It is administered by the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
As part of its routine monitoring efforts, NAD requested substantiation for express claims that included:
- “The world’s first scientifically proven one-button wristband that stops your brain from desiring and craving any unwanted bad habits . . . and it does it in less than 1 week (many times within just a few hours).”
- “Pavlok has helped hundreds quit smoking, nail-biting, unhealthy eating, overspending, and more.”
- “You will see results in just a few days.”
- “For some it takes days. For some, a few hours – but for most, the bad habit you’ve had for years, will be permanently out of your life for good.”
- “Pavlok is designed to help you break any bad habit.”
NAD also requested the advertiser’s support for product performance claims made through consumer testimonials, including but not limited to testimonials that users quit eating sugar, biting their nails, smoking, watching too much television, eating donuts, grinding their teeth, having angry thoughts and quit experiencing symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
In response to NAD’s inquiry, the advertiser said that it had permanently discontinued testimonials asserting that Pavlok users experienced an improvement in PTSD-related symptoms. The advertiser further represented that it would not make such claims in the future.
The advertiser in this case relied on evidence that included scientific studies and articles on aversion therapy and case studies of individuals who had used aversion therapy. The advertiser also provided NAD with a summary of an eight-person pilot study that Pavlok conducted with the University of Massachusetts Boston on Pavlok’s capacity to deter smoking. NAD requested a copy of the full study so that it could assess whether the methodology was sound. However, the advertiser was unable to obtain a copy of the full study and represented to NAD that it would no longer rely on the study as support for its claims.
During the course of NAD’s review, the advertiser also informed NAD that it had permanently discontinued the following claims:
- “The world’s first scientifically proven one-button wristband that stops your brain from desiring and craving any unwanted bad habits … and it does it in less than 1 week (many times within just a few hours)”
- “For some it takes days. For some, a few hours – but for most, the bad habit you’ve had for years, will be permanently out of your life for good”
- “Pavlok is designed to help you break any bad habit”
NAD, in reliance on the advertiser’s representation that it had permanently discontinued the claims, NAD did not review the claims on their merits. However, the voluntarily discontinued claims will be treated, for compliance purposes, as though NAD recommended their discontinuance and the advertiser agreed to comply.
Following its review of the advertiser’s evidence, NAD recommended that Behavioral Technology Group discontinue the unsupported claims that “Pavlok has helped hundreds quit smoking, nail-biting, unhealthy eating, overspending, and more,” and “you may see results in as little as a few days.”
NAD further recommended that the advertiser discontinue all of its product performance claims, made through consumer testimonials, regarding the “bad habits” that users of Pavlok have “broken,” including but not limited to, testimonials that users quit eating sugar, biting their nails, smoking, watching too much television, eating donuts, grinding their teeth, and experiencing angry thoughts.
The company, in its advertiser’s statement, said it “agrees to comply with NAD’s recommendations to discontinue the claims that NAD deemed to be unsubstantiated.”
Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.