I’ve never hidden my belief that if a personal breathalyzer can prevent a DUI, it should be used. That being said, it seems the company behind one of the most popular personal breathalyzers on the market has settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over false claims of its accuracy.
On the fifth season of ABC’s hit show “Shark Tank,” CEO and founder of Breathometer Inc., Charles Michael Yim, won over the “shark” investors with an invention called the “Breathometer” that allowed users to a detect their own blood alcohol content through their smart phone. The device attached to smartphone, would be blown into by the user, and the smartphone would calculate the BAC through an app. Yim’s pitch included the prospect that the Breathometer could prevent incidences of driving under the influence of alcohol. The investors were so impressed with Yim’s invention that they offered up a $1 million dollar investment in exchange for a 30% stake in his startup.
The Breathometer became a consumer hit partly due to advertisements which claimed that the devices accuracy was backed up by government-lab grade testing. According to the FTC, sales for the Breathometer totaled $5.1 million.
However, more than three years after the episode aired, the FTC announced that Yim and Breathometer Inc. had settled a claim that the device “lacked scientific evidence to back up their advertising claims.” The complaint also alleged that the company knew that one variation of the Breathometer, the Breeze, “regularly understated” blood alcohol content levels.
While Yim and Breathometer Inc. did, in fact, settle with the FTC, they did not admit or deny the FTC’s allegations.
Under the settlement with the FTC, Yim and Breathometer Inc. are barred from making claims of the device’s accuracy unless the claims are supported through “rigorous testing.” The company also agreed to notify purchasers of the product to offer full refunds.
“People relied on the defendant’s products to decide whether it was safe to get behind the wheel,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “Overstating the accuracy of the devices was deceptive — and dangerous.”
Breathometer recognized the settlement on its website by stating, “We feel it is important to clarify that this settlement does not undermine our achievements in creating quality consumer health devices.”
Kevin O’Leary, one of the Shark Tank investors, responded to the settlement by stating that the company proactively stopped the manufacturing of the Breathometer in 2015 before the FTC’s initial inquiry.
I stand by my assertion that a personal breathalyzer is a good way to prevent a DUI. Just do some research beforehand on the reliability of what you purchase. According to digitaltrends.com, the best personal breathalyzer for 2016 was the BACtrack S80 Professional Breathalyzer which will run you $125. According to the website, the best smartphone breathalyzer was the BACtrack Mobile Smartphone Breathalyzer at $98, the best portable breathalyzer was the BACtrack Keychain Breathalyzer Portable starting at $26, and the best budget breathalyzer was the VastarAB120 Professional at $20.
Better to spend $125 (at most) to prevent a DUI than to spend the thousands of dollars it will cost you if you are arrested on suspicion of a DUI.