The FTC’s sobering truth about Breathometer
Whether you’re gathering with friends for Friday night happy hour or a Super Bowl party to watch the big game, it’s important to get home safely. So wouldn’t it be great if you could transform your smartphone into a breathalyzer to make sure you were safe to drive? Well, Breathometer, Inc., claimed its breathalyzer devices could do just that, and give you the power to make smart decisions while you’re drinking.
Here’s how it’s supposed to work: You buy a Breathometer device and download an app to your smartphone. To check your blood alcohol level, simply blow into the device. Within seconds, the phone displays your blood alcohol content, and tells you how long it will be before you are sober enough to drive.
According to the FTC, Breathometer claimed its breathalyzer devices — Breathometer Original and Breathometer Breeze — could accurately calculate blood alcohol content from 0.000% to 0.250%. Here’s the sobering truth: Businesses must have competent and reliable scientific evidence for claims like this. Breathometer didn’t.
The company claimed that “rigorous government lab-grade tests” proved the devices accurately measured a person’s blood alcohol content — implying the devices had been tested in a manner consistent with government criteria. The FTC says that is false. So too is the claim that Breeze is a “law enforcement grade” breathalyzer, according to the FTC. What’s more, in most cases, Breathometer didn’t test to see whether Original could accurately detect a blood alcohol content of 0.08%, and its own data showed that Breeze gave inaccurately low results. Every state has laws that at 0.08% or above, a person is considered intoxicated.
The company has disabled the app, and the FTC’s proposed settlement with Breathometer and its founder and CEO, Charles Yim, requires them to contact people who bought these products and provide full refunds. So be on the lookout for a refund notice if you bought one.
A lesson: Be skeptical of apps promising the same accuracy as law enforcement breathalyzers.