‘Brain Training’ Company to Pay $2 Million for Bogus Claims

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The company behind Lumosity claimed that its online games would make players smarter and even delay the onset of dementia. Federal regulators were not impressed.

Lumos Labs, the company behind the Lumosity “brain training” program, has agreed to fork over $2 million to settle charges that it deceived consumers with bogus claims about the cognitive benefits of its online and mobile games.

Lumosity said playing its brain training games would help users excel in school, work and athletics, and even reduce or delay serious health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. It claimed that scientific studies proved the cognitive benefits of its games, but according to the Federal Trade Commission, those claims were unfounded.

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a statement. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

You’ve probably seen or listened to Lumosity ads. The company promoted its brain training games on national TV and radio networks, including NPR, CNN and Fox. According to the Lumosity website, the San Francisco-based company has more than 70 million registered users in 182 countries. Customers paid from $15 a month to $300 for a lifetime membership.

The FTC, which regulates consumer advertising, says the $2 million settlement will be used to refund Lumosity customers. Although the court initially ordered a $50 million penalty against Lumos Labs, that was suspended due to the company’s inability to pay.

Lumosity has been ordered to notify its subscribers about the FTC action and give them a way to cancel their auto-renewal subscription.

The FTC noted that in 2014, a group of prominent neurology and psychology researchers published a consensus statement critical of the brain training industry. The group specifically cited its “frequently exaggerated” marketing.

“The aggressive advertising entices consumers to spend money on products and to take up new behaviors, such as gaming, based on these exaggerated claims,” the experts said.

I have an embarrassingly terrible memory. A couple of years ago, after seeing several ads about Lumosity, I downloaded the app on my phone and started playing the free games. My husband downloaded the app and signed up for a monthly subscription, which also granted him access to more brain training games.

Although I played the free Lumosity games for a couple of months, my memory failed to improve. My husband held out for a while longer, then eventually quit playing and canceled his monthly subscription.

I guess my results — or should I say, lack of results — with Lumosity aren’t surprising, considering that the company was seemingly making baseless claims in what appears to be a successful attempt to lure consumers to use and pay for its games.

Did you try Lumosity? Have you ever been deceived by a company’s claims? Share your experiences below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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