The creators and marketers of the Lumosity brain training program have agreed to pay a $2 million federal settlement about false product claims.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleges Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users improve performance on everyday tasks, delay and protect against age-related cognitive decline and reduce cognitive impairment associated with health conditions. These claims were said to be supported by scientific studies.
"Lumosity preyed on consumers' fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia and even Alzheimer’s disease," says Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection in a news release. "But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads."
According to the FTC's complaint, the Lumosity's apps and online products are purportedly designed to target and train specific areas of the brain. Users could achieve their "full potential in every aspect of life" by playing any of its 40 games for 10 to 15 minutes three to four times a week. The company had more than 70 million users who paid either a $15 monthly subscription or $300 lifetime membership.
Lumosity promoted itself through TV and radio ads, email marketing, blog posts and social media. The company also used Google AdWords to purchase hundreds of keywords related to memory, cognition, dementia and Alzheimer's disease to drive traffic to its website, according to the complaint. The complaint also charges the defendants with failing to disclose 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.
A proposed stipulated federal court order would require the company 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.
Lumos Labs must notify subscribers who signed up for an automatic renewal plan between Jan. 1, 2009, and Dec. 31, 2014, about the FTC action and provide an easy way to cancel their subscription.