You’ve probably seen Lumosity’s ads for games based on neuroscience that can “train your brain.” Apparently, simple exercises in the form of games can help memory and attention span and can stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s. At least that’s what companies like Lumosity claim, and that’s the problem.
Yesterday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that Lumosity has agreed to pay a $2 million dollar settlement for falsely claiming that its brain training games help users prevent disease and prepare for school, among other “deceptive” advertisements.
“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.”
While it’s not beyond the realm of possibility for a game like those featured on Lumosity to help a player’s memory or attention span or prevent mental disease, there simply isn’t enough science to say that we already know how to make those games. And there certainly aren’t enough studies to build a science-based business on, as Lumosity claimed it has.
The FTC’s filed the complaint because Lumosity advertised that its 40 games could help you achieve “full potential in every aspect of life” with only minutes a day of play. The games could help prevent cognitive decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as help alleviate the symptoms of ADHD and PTSD. So far, scientific studies have not reared these benefits.
And according to the FTC, Lumosity even purchased hundreds of keywords through Google AdWords related to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease to drive traffic to their website.
The company also failed to disclose that the testimonials featured in its ubiquitous advertisements offered free trips, iPads, and Lumosity subscriptions in return. Subscriptions to Lumosity’s games range from $14.95 to $299.95.
In accordance with the settlement, Lumosity must now “notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.”
Time will tell if this will be a major blow for “brain training” companies like Lumosity, but considering this settlement (and the fact that Portal 2 can beat Lumosity at its own game), this should be news consumers won’t soon forget.