The online “brain training” site and app known as Lumosity has prominently touted its games as a way to perform better at work and in school. But Lumosity has settled with the Federal Trade Commission, which accuses the company of deceiving consumers with unfounded claims.
The creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program have agreed to settle FTC charges by paying $2 million in redress. Lumosity will also notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing, the FTC said.
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
The Lumosity program consists of 40 games purportedly designed to target and train specific areas of the brain, according to the FTC’s complaint. The company’s ads claimed that training on these games for 10 to 15 minutes, three or four times a week ,could help users achieve their “full potential in every aspect of life.” The company sold both online and mobile app subscriptions, with options ranging from monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.
The complaint also charges the defendants with failing to disclose that some consumer testimonials featured on the website had been solicited through contests that promised significant prizes, including a free iPad, a lifetime Lumosity subscription, and a round-trip to San Francisco.
Lumosity has been widely promoted though TV and radio advertisements. The company also marketed through emails, blog posts, social media, and on their website, Lumosity.com. It used Google AdWords to drive traffic to their website, purchasing hundreds of keywords related to memory, cognition, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease, according to the complaint.
The FTC alleges that the defendants claimed training with Lumosity would 1) improve performance on everyday tasks, in school, at work, and in athletics; 2) delay age-related cognitive decline and protect against mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease; and 3) reduce cognitive impairment associated with health conditions, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, PTSD, ADHD, the side effects of chemotherapy, and Turner syndrome, and that scientific studies proved these benefits.
The proposed stipulated federal court order requires Lumosity and the individual defendants, co-founder and former CEO Kunal Sarkar and co-founder and former Chief Scientific Officer Michael Scanlon, to have “competent and reliable scientific evidence before making future claims about any benefits for real-world performance, age-related decline, or other health conditions.”