Lumosity pays $2 million amid claims of false advertising

Graphic by Caroline Norman.

Lumos Labs, the company behind the brain-training program Lumosity, are expected to pay a US$2 million settlement after a complaint by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that their advertising claims were misleading.

Lumosity ads have been almost inescapable within the last few years. You probably remember one. Attractive, usually young, people say they hope to “remember people’s names” and “to get it from in here, to out there.”

The company, which described its Lumosity product as a “brain training program created by scientists and game designers,” offered over 50 mini-games and claimed that playing just 15 minutes a day, several days a week, through either their website or their mobile app, could result in improved mental cognition.

The FTC complaint states that the creators of Lumosity have said that their games could improve players’ attentiveness, memory, and even lower their risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a written statement. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

The FTC also notes that many of the company’s advertised positive testimonials were part of a contest that included prizes like iPads and free subscriptions to Lumosity.

Lumosity sells access to its games for about US$15 dollars a month, or US$300 for a lifetime subscription.

In 2013 it had a revenue of US$23 million, and made Forbes’ list of “America’s Most Promising Companies” at number 66 that same year.

Lumosity currently has 70 million members in 182 countries. The self-help market has taken off remarkably in recent years, and brain-training products alone are currently worth US$1.3 billion. Part of Lumosity’s settlement with the FTC states that Lumosity must offer an easy way for members cancel their subscription and auto-renewal payments.

Many scientists say brain-training games’ claims of better memory and a healthier brain have not been substantiated.

All of this aside, Lumos Labs, creators of Lumosity, stand behind their work.

“It is important to note that this settlement does not speak to the rigour of our research or the quality of our products,” Lumosity said in a written statement responding to the FTC settlement. “We proudly stand behind the Lumosity product that millions of our members train with each month.”