You have seen the commercial for “brain training” by Lumosity suggesting that its programs would reduce or delay cognitive impairment and even delay such serious diseases as Alzheimer’s. The Federal Trade Commission called the ads deceptive and sought a higher sanction. However, the FTC agreed that the company could only pay $2 million. That seems highly questionable that a company advertising across the country in high-value markets and times could only afford $2 million.
The Lumosity program consists of 40 games designed to target and train specific areas of the brain. The company suggested 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.” Online and mobile app subscriptions included monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.
The FTC detailed how Lumosity claimed it could:
- Improve performance on everyday tasks, in school, at work, and in athletics;
- Delay age-related cognitive decline and protect against mild cognitive impairment, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease;
- 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 government stated “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
Founder and former CEO Kunal Sarkar and co-founder and former Chief Scientific Officer Michael Scanlon have agreed to acquire actually competent and reliable scientific evidence before making future claims about any benefits for real-world performance, age-related decline, or other health conditions.
The order also imposes a $50 million judgment against Lumos Labs, which will be suspended due to its financial condition after it pays $2 million to the Commission.
Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will not only pay $2 million in redress but will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing. If the company is lucky, they will just forget about it.
Here is the FTC Complaint.