Being on Shark Tank can make you often a star. However, One of Shark Tank’s highest-profile deals—for a smartphone breathalyzer—took a hit from the Federal Trade Commission Monday.
The FTC settled a complaint against Breathometer and its CEO and Shark Tank pitcher Charles Yim.
Yim had wowed the sharks with a 2013 pitch for the product—he got an unprecedented deal from all five sharks of $1 million for 30% of the company.
But the FTC, in announcing the complaint and settlement, said that though the ABC TV show’s stars had gone for the product “hook, line and sinker, the defendants’ deceptive claims about the accuracy of the devices’ readings left consumers floundering.”
That complaint was against the marketing of both the original device and a second iteration of the product called Breeze, a Bluetooth-enabled version billed as “law-enforcement grade.”
“People relied on the defendant’s products to decide whether it was safe to get behind the wheel,” said FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director Jessica Rich. “Overstating the accuracy of the devices was deceptive — and dangerous.”
Breathometer will have to refund consumers $1 million after Breathometer learned of accuracy problems—users had a higher blood alcohol level than they were registering on the device and the device’s sensors deteriorated over time—but did not convey that to the thousands of customers who were already basing their decisions on whether they were safe to drive on the readings.
“So as late as February 2016, people could still buy Breeze from big-name national retailers even though Breathometer had known about the inaccurate results for more than a year,” said the FTC.
Breathometer is also disallowed from making similar accuracy claims with future breathalyzers, unless they undergo rigorous testing. This one should be easy enough, since the company no longer sells or manufactures breathalyzers.
If you picked up either the first-generation or Breeze breathalyzer, a request form will be available through Breathometer’s website to claim your refund.