Due to groundless claims that their “brain-training” games would assist players in performing more effectively in school and at work and delaying age- and health-related cognitive impairment, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in damages to settle Federal Trade Commission (FTC) unfounded advertising charges.
The FTC’s complaint detailed that Lumosity’s 40-game program is designed to train targeted brain areas. According to Lumosity’s advertising, players would be able to achieve “full potential in every aspect of life” simply by playing the games for 10 to 15 minutes, three to four times a week. Both monthly $14.95 and lifetime $199.95 memberships were made available through online and mobile subscriptions.
Lumosity’s promotional venues included CNN, Fox News, the History Channel, National Public Radio, Pandora, Sirius XM, and Spotify—the company also made use of e-mail marketing, blogging, social media, their own website, and drove traffic to their site using Google AdWords related to memory, cognition, dementia, and Alzheimer’s.
“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.”
Among the charges against Lumos Labs are false claims that Lumosity would: improve performance in school, work and athletics; slow the progress of cognitive decline and defend the user from mild cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s; and reduce cognitive impairment resulting from stroke, TBI, PTSD, ADHD, chemo side effects, and Turner syndrome. The FTC complaint also describes Lumos Labs’ failure to disclose that some testimonials were solicited through contests promising large prizes—for example, a lifetime Lumosity subscription, free iPad, and round-trip to San Francisco.
The court order will force Lumos Labs and co-founder and former CEO Kunal Sarkar and co-founder and former Chief Scientific Officer Michael Scanlon to back up any future claims for real-world results and protection against cognitive decline with scientific evidence.
Another order further charges $50 million against Lumos Labs, to be suspended after the first $2 million is paid. This order also requires Lumos Labs to provide a simple route for subscription cancellation for players who enlisted in their auto-renewal plan between 2009 and 2014.