A month after saying a dietary supplement could prevent Covid-19, Orewa psychic Jeanette Wilson now claims a bluetooth device she's selling can dose vitamins "vibrationally". But Medsafe, the Commerce Commission and a physicist are warning consumers to be wary of the claims.
A self-proclaimed spirit medium, healer and "psychic surgeon" who recently said a dietary supplement could prevent Covid-19 now claims she can digitally dose people with vitamins using a bluetooth device with a $780 starting price.
Orewa woman Jeanette Wilson, a former bank manager turned psychic, claims in a series of online promotional videos that a device called a Healy can "help" people with an array of ailments - from multiple sclerosis and cystic fibrosis, to learning difficulties and anxiety.
The device has recently become available in New Zealand. It is sold by Wilson, who claims to be one of a 160-person-strong sales team, using a multi-level-marketing (MLM) or 'network marketing' strategy, similar to those used by companies like Utah-based essential oils giants doTerra and Young Living. Participants earn money by selling products but also by signing up other salespeople. In one promotional video, Wilson calls herself "the network marketing queen".
In another video, she says, "This is the best investment you'll probably make your whole life, for what it can do for you and your family".
Conversely, University of Auckland physics professor Richard Easther says that claims being made about the Healy don't make scientific sense. "I wouldn't touch this with a barge pole."
Healy promotional videos posted by Wilson contain testimonials from users, who make claims, including that using the device completely relieved a woman's period pain, helped another with weight loss and enabled a child with learning difficulties to read. On her Facebook page, amongst anti-vaccination, anti-5G and Q-Anon content, Wilson has shared a testimonial from a woman who says that after using the Healy she recovered from pneumonia and bronchitis in two days. Wilson also points people to a Facebook group where users share testimonials about the Healy. Under the Medicines Act, advertising a medical device using testimonials is prohibited. Medical devices that claim to use 'vibratory forces' are also not to be sold.
RNZ asked Medsafe whether the claims made by Wilson and her associates about the device were lawful. In a statement, a spokesman said Healy was being sold by Wilson as a medical device, therefore its promotion via testimonial was not permitted. The statement went on to warn that consumers with serious health conditions should speak to a healthcare professional before buying a device like the Healy.
The Medsafe spokesman said people should be wary of testimonials and promotional material that seem to imply a device could improve health, but which were unlikely to have any substantive evidence of either safety or effectiveness.
The Healy functions via two wired electrodes which can be stuck to a person's wrist, ear or elsewhere on the body. The device connects to a smartphone via bluetooth. Using a smartphone app, the user can send weak electrical currents into the body through the electrodes.
But in a video, called Distant Healing with the Healy Resonance, Wilson also claims that she can use the device to detect what amino acids, vitamins and other substances a person is lacking. She does this by placing her finger on the screen of her smartphone while running a Healy app, and "focusing on how [the person] feels and having a good intention towards him".
"If you went to a doctor, a doctor couldn't tell you [what amino acids your body needed] just like that. So this really is quite remarkable," Wilson says.
In the video, she claims she can then "vibrationally" send the person amino acids. Wilson also claims to be able to "digitally" or "vibrationally" send people homeopathic flower remedies, and vitamins C, D and B12 using the Healy. She says that she is able to do this by sending users the vitamin or amino acid's vibrational frequency from the Healy, which contains a "quantum sensor".
But Easther, who heads the University of Auckland's physics department, is not convinced the Healy devices and apps are anything more than a waste of money. He called the scientific claims made and the language used in promotional videos "gibberish".
"It's as if they've learnt the menu at a French bakery and are then trying to pass themselves off as a French speaker by standing there going, 'croissant, baguette, fromage'... It makes no contact with any aspect of electromagnetism or atomic physics or quantum mechanics that I understand."
Easther said that any claims that someone had figured out how to digitally dose a person from afar with vitamins or amino acids using vibrations or "frequencies" is "something that is entirely fantasy."
He said any positive feelings experienced by Healy users were likely the placebo effect. "There will be some people who believe they've received some benefit from this. People with chronic health conditions are often particularly vulnerable to something that offers them hope". Easther said that in a multi-level-marketing context, it was possible such people would go on to then vigorously proselytise for it.
Also called direct selling or pyramid selling (not to be confused with a pyramid scheme, which is illegal in New Zealand) MLM models - like the one used to sell the Healy - require people to sell products directly to the consumer. Salespeople are also incentivised to recruit other salespeople.
With working hours that can fit into an otherwise busy schedule, the model became popular with women in the post-war era, and continues to appeal today. But, as a study published on the US Federal Trades Commission website warns, MLMs can be "flawed, unfair, and deceptive". The study goes on to describe the MLM industry as "viral, predatory and harmful" and reports that less than 1 percent of participants profit.
That might be a worry for those tempted to "experience the Healy evolution"; The starting price of a Healy is $780, but upgrades can set a buyer back between $1490 and $3675, though people using the Healy can get 'free' upgrades by recruiting more salespeople in a certain timeframe. Additional costs relating to app subscriptions can range from about $50 a month to about $167 a month. A Healy watch, similar to a Fitbit, which monitors the heart rate and sleep patterns, can also be purchased. The cost of the watch with a three-month subscription to the app needed for it to work is about $427.
When asked about the claims she was making about Healy, Wilson asked RNZ to provide proof she had made them. When provided with audio recordings and screenshots, Wilson referred RNZ to Healy's head office in Germany and refused to comment further.
Last year, while on a speaking tour in the United Kingdom, Wilson claimed the ghost of a dead surgeon worked through her to heal people, the Liverpool Echo reported.
At the time, project director of charity The Good Thinking Society Michael Marshall told the Echo the group was concerned that Wilson's show "could encourage sick and vulnerable people to come along so that she can perform a so-called healing on them, with no good evidence that those healings are effective."
Marshall also raised concerns about a leaflet handed out at the show that contained links to anti-vaccination websites, suggested that vaccines in New Zealand are linked to Alzheimer's and called 5G technology a "weapon", the Echo reported.
More recently, at a $55-a-head private seminar hosted by Wilson, she claimed that Covid-19 was "man made", that all the world's money is controlled by about 300 people and that Donald Trump was her hero for having "seen through Dr Antony Fauci," for sorting out the World Health Organisation, for "stopping the 5G," and for "stopping mandatory vaccines".
At the same seminar, she recommended a supplement called HFI, sold by MLM company Enzacta as a preventative against the virus that causes Covid-19 from attaching to the lungs. RNZ has viewed a video of the seminar, recorded by group NZ Sceptics, in which Wilson makes the claims. When asked for evidence supporting her HFI claims by the Spinoff, Wilson denied making the comments.
Wilson says the sceptics "target me regularly and accuse me of all kinds of things".
A spokeswoman for the Commerce Commission said it hadn't received any complaints about the Healy, but reminded businesses that they must be able to to back up any claims they make. "It is illegal to make claims about a good or service without a reasonable basis.
"Consumers are entitled to rely on trader claims when making purchasing decisions. In many cases consumers will not have the time, resources or ability to establish for themselves if claims are accurate. Businesses must be able to substantiate (prove) their claims by providing evidence to support them."
The spokeswoman said if a consumer believed a business or person was making false, inaccurate or misleading claims, they could contact the Disputes Tribunal or make a complaint [www.comcom.govt.nz at the Commission's website]. Alternatively they can call the Commission on 0800 943 600 or email [firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com].
Consumer NZ head of research, Jessica Wilson, told Morning Report: "It is a load of nonsense and unfortunately these kinds of claims are rife and enforcement is lacking which means shonky traders are making advantage of the situation".
In Consumer NZ's view, the woman appeared to be breaching the Fair Trade Act, which she could be prosecuted under.
They also felt she was breaching the Medicines Act.
"The problem with the Medicine's Act is the financial penalties are quite low and MedSafe doesn't have a full suite of enforcement tools. There is a review of the Medicines Act underway but that is taking some time so the Ministry does need more effective tools.
"Regulators' ability to police the market is limited by the resources available to them so these products are often given lower priority because (while) they may not cure you, they may not do you any harm in most cases as well. The main harm of course is too your wallet.
"People may also be persuaded to put off seeking proper medical attention."
Wilson said social media and online promotions had seen a huge growth in the claims about such products.