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Lumosity devs pay FTC $2M over deceptive brain game advertising

The maker of the Lumosity brain-training games will pay $2 million to settle FTC charges it deceived customers by falsely advertising Lumosity as a scientifically-proven way to improve brain health.

Alex Wawro, Contributor

January 5, 2016

2 Min Read

Lumos Labs, maker of the Lumosity brain-training games, will pay $2 million to the Federal Trade Commission to settle charges that it deceived customers by falsely advertising Lumosity as a scientifically-proven way to improve cognitive health.

The Lumosity brain-training games challenge cognitive skills like memory and response time, and are designed to be played regularly so players can monitor their performance. The games have come under fire in the past for being overhyped -- a psychology researcher noted in 2014 that "Portal 2 kicks Lumosity's ass" after measuring cognitive skill improvements in study groups who played each for eight hours.

Thus, it's notable that the FTC has actually taken the developer to task for not having competent, reliable scientific evidence to back up its games' advertised health benefits and not disclosing some of its customer testimonials were paid for.

“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 representative Jessica Rich stated in a press release announcing the settlement. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California seems to agree, as it (via its San Francisco branch) has ordered Lumos Labs to pay the afore-mentioned $2 million (the court actually imposed a $50 million judgment against the company but suspended after evaluating Lumos' financial state following its $2 million payout) to the FTC.

The company is also under court orders to notify Lumosity subscribers of its settlement with the FTC and provide them with a clear, easy way to cancel their subscriptions to the service (which start at $15/month and can go up to $300 for a lifetime membership.)

Going forward, Lumos and its co-founders are ordered by the court to refrain from making public claims about anything that benefits health and personal performance or prevents age-related decline without what the FTC calls "competent and reliable scientific evidence."

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