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Encouragement AwardComment and Opinion

This site received an Encouragement Award in the 2010 Millenium Awards. The award citation read:

Even a change in name in 2009 couldn't turn around the fortunes of this scam operator, and in August 2009 they were ordered by a court to do and say certain things. They are receiving an Encouragement Award in 2010 because they forgot to do what the court said and in October 2010 proceedings for contempt of court were initiated. The award is to encourage the operators to remember to put things in their to-do lists, especially things that courts want them to do.

Dear Mr Keir,

Congratulations. Allergy Pathway won an Encouragement Award in the 2010 Millenium Awards presented by The Millenium Project. The judges felt that you needed some encouragement after forgetting to do what the Court told you to do. Also, with some time still left to run on the three years of inactivity ordered by the Court in 2009 they thought that you might need to know that people haven't forgotten you. The award citation read:

[see above]

Please feel free to publicise your award and display the award logo on your web site. If you wish to collect the physical prize (a tube of haemorrhoid cream and a wire brush applicator) you can do so at your own expense, but please give me sufficient notice so that I can organise the location for the public application of the cream and the accompanying media coverage.

You can see the other award winners at http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/history/2010/2010awards.htm


Allergy Pathway (formerly Advanced Allergy Elimination)
The web site for these scammers went into "Maintenance mode" in September 2011 and never came back

Tap a back, tap a wallet (13/9/2003)
AdvancedTap that rich seam of gold leading to a wallet Allergy Elimination is a bizarre concoction of quackeries. It combines the magical vibration bottles of Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET), the arm pushing of NAET, Contact Reflex Analysis (CRA) and Applied Kinesiology, the hot spots and meridians of acupuncture and the automatic rubber hammer used in Activator Method chiropractic. It has something for everyone, but most of all for the operator of the scam.

I turned on my television during the week to find that a program was running an advertisement for medical quackery. A first I thought that I had switched over during an advertising break, but it soon became apparent that this was supposed to be a news story, and the news was that allergies could be cured by tapping people's backs with a little rubber hammer like some chiropractors use. This was done after applying a drop or two of magic water and then doing the old arm pushing trick. (It took me five minutes to learn how to do this trick. The reason it took so long is that I decided to learn at least three different methods.) Remarkably, some satisfied customers were uncovered who could provide great anecdotes about how good this scam was. Well, they talked about miracle cures rather than how good the scam was. I don't think the operator wanted to emphasise that too much.

A spokesperson for the promoters claimed that the method was 87% successful in the treatment of allergies. Not just the treatment, but the complete elimination of allergies. Often a single visit is all that is necessary. You may wonder how anyone can make money out of a system which cures chronic hay fever for ever after just one treatment. Well, it seems that each treatment only cures one "allergy family". If you keep sneezing when you get near the cat after the first treatment then you need to go back and have another "allergy family" attended to. If you keep sneezing when you get near the cat after the second treatment then ... . You get my meaning.

What made things worse was that the story promoting this quackery appeared on A Current Affair, a once-reputable current affairs television show. It was presented as a news story and an investigation, but the totality of the investigation consisted of collecting anecdotes from people who just happened to be introduced to the TV show by the quacks and the obligatory few seconds of a real doctor being too polite to stop talking about science and start talking about fraud. What I saw was an unpaid advertisement for a method to take money from people and offer nothing in return except the promise of more expense in the future.

You can see some details of the television program here, and the program's explanation of how Advanced Allergy Elimination "works" here.


Someone wrote to me about this:

From: "brett hogan"
Subject: re: Advanced Allergy Elimination
Date: Thu, 05 Feb 2004 03:23:22 +0000

To whom it may concern,

Hello I am writing in regards to your article on Advanced Allergy Elimination (http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/aae.htm) and was wondering whether you have actually tried this personally or whether your comments were based on watching the A Current Affair program.

Kind Regards,

Brett

ACA just alerted me to the scam. I was amazed that the show would promote such an obvious and transparent fraud.


Advanced Allergy Elimination (16/4/2005)
On Tap that rich seam of gold leading to a walletThursday, April 14, the television current affairs program Today Tonight ran a story under the heading "New allergy treatment" which featured a form of quackery known as "Advanced Allergy Elimination". Not only was this nothing new, but the same quackery had been shown on a competing program (which airs at exactly the same time as TT each night) in September 2003. As this was 583 days after ACA ran the story I suppose it does constitute a "new" story in television current affairs world. I sent the following message to Today Tonight, but I don't really expect a reply.

I am amazed that you would run an advertisement for the obvious scam of AAE, particularly as the same story had run on A Current Affair in the past (September 2003).


Here's how not to point out an error (29/4/2006)
The person who sent me the email below was not happy that I Tapping the back to tap the wallethad said nasty things about a form of quackery known as Advanced Allergy Elimination. This particular form of theft takes those little spring-loaded mallets used by some chiropractors and uses them to hit points on acupuncture meridians, thus curing allergies. There is also a bit of the old arm-pulling trick (it took me five minutes to learn how to do this, but only because I had to learn three techniques) and some bottles of vibrations. Only one allergy can be treated at a time, so patients have to return many times to be cured. You can read what I had to say about this fraud here. The correspondent was obviously upset, and you can see my responses in italics.

From: "Craig Reimer"
Subject: allergy treatment that is apparently a concoction of quackeries!!!!
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2006 18:29:46 +1000

I DONT KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT RIGHT YOU HAVE TO BE SO JUDGEMENTAL ON THIS ISSUE BUT I HAVE JUST ONE QUESTION FOR YOU. DO YOU SUFFER FROM ALLERGIES?

Yes. As it happens I am allergic to certain pollens, including some from grasses.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE OR SEEN A HELPLESS CHILD GO THROUGH THE UNBEARABLE ITCHING OR PAIN ASSOCIATED WITH AN ALLERGY? I THINK NOT!!!

You think wrong. I grew up with someone who could have life-threatening asthma attacks at any time.

I HAVE AND IT JUST SO HAPPENED TO BE MY SON. HE WAS TREATED IN FEBUARY THIS YEAR AT THE BRISBANE CLINIC HE WAS TREATED FOR 4 ALLERGEN FAMILIES ALL OF WHICH HAVE GIVEN HIM COMPLETE RELIEF. THIS IS A CHILD WHO COULDN'T PLAY ON THE GRASS BECAUSE HE WAS ALLERGIC TO SO MANY GRASS SEED POLLENS. HE WAS ALSO TREATED FOR DUSTMITES, PRIOR TO TREATMENT HIS ALLERGY LEFT HIM SNEEZING FOR 2 HOURS EVERY MORNING AND ALSO ITCHING CONSTANTLY ON THE FACE. SO TELL ME WHY IS IT THAT MY SON NOW WAKES UP AND DOESN'T SNEEZE HAS NO ITCHING AND CAN NOW BE A CHILD AND PLAY OUTSIDE ON THE GRASS LIKE EVERY OTHER CHILD CAN!!!

One obvious reason is that he was doing a lot of sneezing last spring when the grass was flowering and he isn't now because it is heading into winter. My allergies settle down at this time of year also, and it doesn't take quackery to make that happen.

HE CAN NOW LIVE HIS LIFE WITHOUT DANGEROUS MEDICATIONS LIKE PHERNAGAN WHICH WOULD ONLY GIVE HIM MINOR RELIEF.GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT BEFORE YOU PREACH TO PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. I WILL BE SEEKING FURTHER TREATMENT WITH AAE AND YES WILL BE PAYING THEM FOR THEIR EXCELLENT SERVICES. AND MY HEALTHFUND WILL GIVE ME A REFUND TO BOOT!!!!!!!!

The only alternative treatments paid for by my health fund (Medibank Private) are chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy and remedial massage. (I know, it's outrageous that I have to pay insurance for these, but they won't give me a discount just because I will never use them.) I realise that other health funds cover a wider range of quackery, but I didn't think any of them would be silly enough to pay for this obvious fraud. Did the crooks actually put "AAE" on the invoice or did they put something like "chiropractic"? If they did the latter they were probably committing insurance fraud as well as health fraud, just as you would have been doing when submitting the claim to the fund.


Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2008 20:59:42 -0800
From: Paul Falla
Subject: Allergy elimination

Dear Ratbags (what an appropriate monniker)

I write in reply to your completely misinformed comments on your website in relation to the so called quackery of allergy elimination. In all my living years I have yet to encounter anybody as close-minded as yourself. and trust me, I have met some very close-minded individuals.

I have a number of issues in relation to your inane ramblings on this subject, the greatest being, what credentials or qualifications do you posses which give you the right to pass judgment on these alternative allergy treatments? It would be interesting to see if you actually have something firm to back up your claims. If not, then the term 'charlatan' applies equally to your good self, does it not?

I also find it bizarre that you permit the advertisement of these cures on a page devoted to the rubbishing of others legitimate claims to success.


Advanced Allergy Elimination eliminated? (23/5/2009)
We can only hope that the blatant quackery known as Advanced Allergy Elimination will shortly join the dodo in the list of extinct species. Not a moment too soon. Here is a welcome media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

ACCC institutes proceedings against Advanced Allergy Elimination Pty Ltd and its director, Paul Keir

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Fast Track list in the Federal Court, Melbourne against Advanced Allergy Elimination Pty Ltd for alleged contraventions of the Trade Practices Act 1974.

The action concerns alleged representations by AAE including that it can test for and accurately identify a substance to which a person is allergic and that it can eliminate and successfully treat a person's allergy. The ACCC alleges AAE cannot test for and treat a person's allergies. The ACCC alleges that in making these representations AAE has engaged in false and/or misleading conduct.

The ACCC has also taken action against AAE's director, Mr Paul Keir for allegedly being involved in certain of AAE's conduct.

The ACCC is seeking various orders including declarations, injunctions, corrective notices and costs. The ACCC is also seeking an order that Mr Keir attend trade practices law training.

A scheduling conference is listed before Justice Finkelstein on Wednesday 24 June 2009 at 2.00 pm in the Federal Court, Melbourne.

Release # NR 114/09
Issued: 18th May 2009


Another shovelful of dirt in the AAE grave (29/8/2009)
The news just keeps getting better about Advanced Allergy Elimination. Now a judge has told them to stop the quackery. Here is the media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Allergy treatment declared misleading

An allergy treatment provider has been found to have misled consumers about the efficacy of its treatments.

Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd, formerly known as Advanced Allergy Elimination Pty Ltd, was the subject of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission action in the Federal Court, Melbourne.

ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel said an allergic reaction can be severe and in some cases may lead to death.

"With this in mind, claiming to be able to test for, identify and treat a person's allergies and underplaying the associated risks is fraught with danger," Mr Samuel said.

The court has made orders by consent and declared that the company engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct by representing that:

  • it could test for and identify an allergen for a person and/or a substance to which a person is allergic (the company could not do this)
  • it could cure or eliminate virtually all allergies or allergic reactions (the company could not cure or eliminate any allergies or any allergic reactions)
  • it could successfully treat a person's allergies or allergic reactions (the company could not do this)
  • and its treatment was safe and/or low risk and after treatment it was safe for a person to have contact with the substance or allergen to which the person had an adverse reaction (when there were risks associated with the treatment for persons with certain allergies including food allergies).

The notice that the company was ordered to place on its web site was a bit more detailed than the ACCC media release. Here is what that notice said:

The Court has declared that AAE’s conduct contravened the TPA because the following representations it made were either not true or were misleading or deceptive:

  1. AAE can test for and identify an allergen for a person; (AAE cannot do this; immunologically mediated allergies such as coeliac disease or food allergies can only be diagnosed by skin prick testing or a special blood test and AAE does not perform these tests)
  2. AAE can cure or eliminate virtually all allergies or allergic reactions, or successfully treat a person’s allergies or allergic reactions; (AAE cannot do this; many allergies, including food allergies, cannot be cured or successfully treated)
  3. AAE’s treatment is safe and/or low risk, and following treatment it is safe for a person to have contact with an allergen; (as AAE cannot cure, eliminate or successfully treat allergies, it may be unsafe or even potentially life threatening to recommence contact with the allergen).

The court declared that the company's director, Mr Paul Keir, was knowingly concerned in or a party to the company's contraventions. The company and Mr Keir gave undertakings to the court not to engage in similar conduct for a period of three years.

The company also must send letters to current and former customers detailing the contravening conduct and the outcome of the ACCC's action.

The court also ordered the company to publish corrective advertising notices in newspapers, in its clinics and on its website (www.aaeclinics.com.au).

In making this order, Justice Finkelstein considered publication of the corrective advertisements was particularly important.

Justice Finkelstein observed, "The impugned statements have the potential to cause real harm. Persons with allergies are best treated by medical practitioners. Further, clients suffering from allergies and taking the treatment provided by AAE may wrongly believe the treatment is effective when it is not. Some treatments may even be dangerous to a client. This state of affairs must be remedied and the provision of corrective advertising is an appropriate means to achieve that result."

Mr Samuel said traders making claims that can't be substantiated can jeopardise public health and safety and run a number of risks, not least of which may be rigorous enforcement action by the ACCC, which may in appropriate cases, involve a criminal prosecution.

This is the ACCC's second successful outcome this week in the area of health claims. Earlier this week the court found two website operators had engaged in misleading conduct in selling medical eBooks which claimed to cure a range of conditions.

Release # NR 210/09
Issued: 27th August 2009


The last note about Advanced Allergy Elimination (I hope) (5/9/2009)
I mentioned last week that Advanced Allergy Elimination, now calling themselves Allergy Pathway, were ordered by a court to stop saying some things that were not true and to stop some misleading or deceptive practices. I wondered how they were going to keep busy for the next few years, so I sent a Kind and Gentle email asking for details:

I notice from an ACCC media release and a notice on your web site that you can no longer claim to be able to detect or treat allergies or to claim that your treatments are safe, and I also see that you have changed your name to remove reference to eliminating allergies.

If you can't do what you have been doing for some years, what are you going to do for the next three years until the court order expires? Will people with allergies just have to wait?


Court orders are not to be sneezed at (2/10/2010)
It has taken a few years but it looks like some real legal action can be taken against the promoters of the obvious financial and medical fraud, Allergy Pathway (née Advanced Allergy Elimination). You would have thought that when ordered by a court to stop telling lies or else you would stop telling lies. In the arrogant fashion we have come to expect from quacks, this one just kept on with business. The difference, however, between the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and other bodies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission is that the ACCC has the force of the Trade Practices Act behind it and can actually take court action which might result in a penalty. The difference between the Federal Court of Australia and all of those organisations is that when judges of the Court says "Do something" they really mean it, and they don't care why you were told to do it. (An organisation that had been found by the Federal Court to be operating an illegal pyramid scheme tried to have the Court find me in contempt. I can assure you that it is not something to take lightly, although in that case the Court was much more unhappy about the time wasting actions of the complainers than it was about what I had done.)

Here is what the ACCC's media release said:

ACCC issues contempt proceedings against Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd and Paul Keir

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has applied for orders in the Federal Court, Melbourne, against Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd (formerly known as Advanced Allergy Elimination Pty Ltd) and its sole director, Mr Paul Keir, for alleged contempt of court.

On 27 August 2009 Justice Finkelstein of the Federal Court in Melbourne declared that Allergy Pathway had engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct in making certain representations made about its allergy treatments (see previous news release 210/09). The court also declared that Mr Keir was knowingly concerned in, or a party to, Allergy Pathway's contraventions.

As part of the resolution of that proceeding, Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir gave undertakings to the court. Allergy Pathway undertook not to represent that:

  • it can accurately test for and identify an allergen for a person and/or a substance which causes a person's allergic reaction
  • it can cure or eliminate, or successfully treat, any allergies or any allergic reactions
  • its treatment for a person's allergies or allergic reactions is safe and/or low risk, or
  • after its treatment of a person's allergies or allergic reactions it is safe for that person to have contact with the allergen to which the person had an allergic reaction.

Mr Keir undertook not to be directly or indirectly involved in the publication of any representations of the type outlined above.

The ACCC is alleging that Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir have breached their undertakings by making representations of the type outlined above on Allergy Pathway's website at www.allergypathway.com.au and on Allergy Pathway's Twitter and Facebook accounts.

The ACCC is seeking that Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir be fined for contempt, be restrained from engaging in similar conduct for a period of five years and pay the ACCC's costs of this proceeding. The ACCC is also seeking orders requiring Allergy Pathway to publish corrective notices and send corrective letters to its customers.

The matter is returnable at 9.30 a.m. on 5 October 2010 at the Federal Court in Melbourne.

Release # NR 204/10
Issued: 30th September 2010


Some people never learn (12/2/2011)
Our old friends at Allergy Pathway (née Advanced Allergy Elimination) don't seem to be able to understand what they are told, so they keep getting into trouble. Here is a media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission detailing their latest problems.

Firm fined for testimonials by Facebook "fans" and tweeters

The Federal Court has fined Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd (formerly known as Advanced Allergy Elimination) and its director, Mr Paul Keir, $7,500 each for contempt of undertakings made to the court.

In August 2009 Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir gave undertakings to the court following successful Australian Competition and Consumer Commission action for false, misleading and deceptive conduct.

Justice Finkelstein has found that Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir made prohibited representations about Allergy Pathway's purported allergy treatment on its website and on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube in breach of those undertakings.

The representations included testimonials written and posted by clients on Allergy Pathway's Facebook "wall" and testimonials written by clients and posted by Allergy Pathway on its website and Facebook and Twitter pages.

In his judgment Justice Finkelstein held that: "while it cannot be said that Allergy Pathway was responsible for the initial publication of testimonials (the original publisher was the third party who posted the testimonials on Allergy Pathway's Twitter and Facebook pages) it is appropriate to conclude that Allergy Pathway accepted responsibility for the publications when it knew of them and decided not to remove them. Hence it became the publisher of the testimonials."

In responding to the judgment, ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said: "Many corporations now use Facebook "Fan" pages and Twitter accounts to promote their businesses. This outcome confirms that any business that decides to leave public testimonials or other comments on their Facebook and Twitter pages will be held responsible if they are false, misleading or deceptive."

In August 2009, Allergy Pathway undertook not to represent that:

  • it can accurately test for and identify an allergen for a person and/or a substance which causes a person's allergic reaction
  • it can cure or eliminate, or successfully treat, any allergies or any allergic reactions
  • its treatment for a person's allergies or allergic reactions is safe and/or low risk, or
  • after its treatment of a person's allergies or allergic reactions it is safe for that person to have contact with the allergen to which the person had an allergic reaction.

Mr Keir undertook not to be directly or indirectly involved in the publication of any of these representations.

In addition to the fines, the court ordered that Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir be restrained from engaging in similar conduct for a further period of three years and to publish corrective advertising. Allergy Pathway and Mr Keir were also ordered to pay the ACCC's legal costs on an indemnity basis.

Release # NR 028/11
Issued: 11th February 2011


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