FTC Fines Lumosity $2M For ‘Deceptive’ Ads About Brain Workout – Mental Games Don’t Work To Improve Memory?

Lumosity has been fined by the FTC for “deceptive” ads that promised “brain workout.” The company offers subscription based mental games to improve memory and cognitive ability.

Online consumer company Lumosity has agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The company has been fined $2 million for its claims about improving memory simply by playing the mental games the company offered through a monthly subscription based model. Incidentally, if the company doesn’t honor the terms of its settlement, it could face a much heftier fine of up to $50 million, said regulators. Interestingly, the company was initially fined $50 million, but the FTC settled on $2 million because of the company’s “poor financial situation.”

Lumosity is in hot water for its advertisements that peddled the benefits of its “brain training” games. The company had a great sounding pitch for anyone who was age-panicked, or deviated towards self-help. “Subscribe to our program of memory and cognition games, and your brain performance will get better. You might even fight off the effects of Alzheimer’s,” reports Los Angeles Times. However, the FTC saw through the ads and in a lawsuit filed Monday in San Francisco federal court, the FTC emphasized that these claims were false or unsubstantiated. The lawsuit was against against Lumos Labs, the San Francisco Company that owns Lumosity.

Lumosity offers subscription-based access to games and activities on its website and mobile app. While there’s nothing illegal about offering such platforms that assist in keeping one’s mind sharp, the company boldly touted the program’s “proven” ability to enhance brain function, ward off degenerative brain diseases, and improve academic and athletic performance, reported CNN. Incidentally, the company didn’t have sufficient “proof” to back those claims, noted the FTC.

Lumosity’s popular program consisted of 40 mental games. While playing games to boost memory seems like a fun way to stay sharp and mentally healthy, the company claimed its platform improve performance at work and in school. Regular users could also put off development of serious health conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, the company routinely claimed through paid advertisements, reported CBS News.

FTC stressed that Lumosity didn’t put forth any substantial evidence that proved its games worked as claimed. However, that didn’t stop the company from widely promoting its service through email campaigns, social media posts and advertisements. What’s even more worrying is the company used fear as a primary driver to get people on board, said FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection director Jessica Rich,

“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.”

The company heavily promoted its platform. Some of its commercials claimed clients could sign up in order to “remember people’s names, stay sharp, to concentrate better, to learn faster,” and to simply have a “better brain.” However, the company never had any specifics to put forth that scientifically explained, with any kind of professional attestation, why its games would work.

To impress the crowd, Lumosity routinely used neuroplasticity, a scientific-slant buzzword, during the commercials. Neuroplasticity is an umbrella term that refers to the potential of the brain to reorganize itself by creating new neural pathways, reports The Examiner. Lumosity claims to have an active subscriber base of 70 million users in 180 countries. According to Business Insider, the company charged monthly subscriptions for online access to the company’s “brain games,” – ranging from $15 per month to a lifetime membership of $300.

Lumosity confirmed it won’t be ceasing its operations as it considers the fine was levied because of the “marketing language,” which the company added, has been discontinued. The company has categorically mentioned, “We remain committed to moving the science of cognitive training forward and contributing meaningfully to the field’s community and body of research.”

[Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]