FTC Charges Makers of Lumosity App $2M for Deceiving Users

January 7
7:58 PM 2016

Lumosity, the app that claimed to improve cognition and delay impairment from age and health conditions has been charged and fined by the Federal Trade Commission for deceiving their customers. Lumos Labs, the company who created the app, must pay $2 million.

The FTC sent out a press release over their disapproval of the company's actions stating, "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."

Lumos Labs advertised the app in such ways that made consumers think that their claims were true. However, under federal law, the Food and Drug Administration must review and approve a company's claim on their product if it claims to treat any serious disease or condition, as stated by NBC News. The FDA has yet to give such an approval to any brain-training program.

The Lumosity app contains 40 games that were supposedly created to train specific areas of the brain. Lumos Labs claimed that if users played for 10 to 15 minutes three to four times per week, the app would help users reach their full potential.

In order to use the app and, therefore, improve the mental capacity to its fullest, users were encouraged to buy subscriptions. These subscriptions ranged from a monthly membership at $14.95 or to a lifetime membership priced at $299.95.

The company has pointed to a published study in a peer-reviewed academic journal called PLOSone from 2015. The findings in the study showed that compared to the control group that did only crossword puzzles, the group that used the Lumosity app for 15 minutes at least five days a week over a period of 10 weeks saw "neuropsychological performance" improvements.

The company responded to the charges with a statement to the Washington Post. They stated that the charges were a reflection of how the app was marketed and not a reflection of the quality of the app, nor the research behind it. "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."

As part of the settlement, along with the $2 million fee to the FTC, the company must notify the subscribers of the FTC's charges and allow those users an easy way to cancel their subscriptions, if they wished to do so. The FTC plans to use the majority of the $2 million on consumer refunds.

It seems that the next time an app comes out with spectacular claims on improving mental health, or somehow helping to cure a serious mental disease by frequent use, consumers should be wary. In a world of fast answers, sometimes the right way to solve a problem is by taking the time to understand how that answer works, if it works at all.  

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