Lumos Labs, the creator of “brain training program” Lumosity with $67.5 million in venture funding, has agreed to pay a $2 million settlement to the Federal Trade Commission for its deceptive advertising. As part of the settlement, the company has to notify all of its customers who signed up for an auto-renewal plan between Jan. 1, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2014 about the FTC settlement, and give them the chance to cancel their subscriptions. Before making future claims about Lumosity’s potential benefits on brain performance, the U.S. District Court in San Francisco has ordered that Lumos Labs must “possess and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence.”
In the FTC’s complaint, it claimed that Lumos Labs deceived people with “unfounded claims” that the app could help people perform better in school, at work and reduce or improve cognitive impairment. The FTC says Lumos Labs did not have the science to back up its claims. The complaint also alleges that Lumos Labs failed to disclose that some of the consumer testimonials had been solicited through contests that promised prizes like a free iPad and a round-trip flight to San Francisco.
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich said in a statement. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
Lumosity’s program has more than 40 games that focus on memory, attention, flexibility, problem solving and processing speed. The programs are available via subscriptions ranging from an $11.95 monthly fee to $299.95 for a lifetime membership.
“Neither the action nor the settlement pertains to the rigor of our research or the quality of the products — it is a reflection of marketing language that has been discontinued,” Lumosity told TechCrunch in a statement. “Our focus as a company has not and will not change: We remain committed to moving the science of cognitive training forward and contributing meaningfully to the field’s community and body of research.”
The statement went on to say: “Lumosity has made strong contributions to the scientific community, including our work with the Human Cognition Project initiative. We invest heavily in research and game development to ensure that our products are engaging and provide value to users. The recent peer-reviewed clinical test published in the journal PLOS One is a large, randomized, active-controlled trial of our cognitive training program. The study reported that participants who trained with Lumosity for 10 weeks improved on an aggregate assessment of cognition. Going forward, a key focus of our ongoing research is to build on these studies to better understand how training-driven improvements on tests of cognition translate to performance in participants’ everyday lives.”