Marketers of Brain Training Programs Settle FTC Charges of Making Unsupported Claims

The company allegedly claimed that LearningRx brain training is ten times more cost-effective than tutoring

Marketers of Brain Training Programs Settle FTC Charges of Making Unsupported Claims
Image: Pixabay
May 24, 2016

The developers and marketers of the LearningRx "brain training" programs have agreed to stop making a range of false and unsubstantiated claims and pay $200,000 under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

According to the FTC's complaint, LearningRx Franchise Corp. and its CEO, Dr. Ken Gibson, deceptively claimed that their programs were clinically proven to permanently improve serious health conditions like ADHD, autism, dementia, Alzheimer's disease, strokes, and concussions—and that the training substantially improved school grades and college admission test scores, career earnings, and job and athletic performance.

The company also allegedly claimed that LearningRx brain training is ten times more cost-effective than tutoring.

"Companies that say they can significantly improve serious health conditions or how your brain functions in everyday situations need to back up those claims with sound science," said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "In this case, the defendants couldn't show their training provides the health or other real-world benefits they claimed."

According to the FTC, the defendants promoted LearningRx through LearningRx.com and affiliated websites, as well as through a blog, Facebook and Twitter posts, print and radio ads, and direct mail pieces. They also allegedly used Google search ads to target consumers searching for terms such as "cure for ADD," "autism cure," "Asperger cure," and "severe traumatic brain injury cure." The defendants offered LearningRx training through more than 80 LearningRx centers that it franchised in 25 states.

The proposed order settling the FTC's charges prohibits the defendants from claiming that their programs improve performance at work or in athletics, or improve the cognitive function of individuals with age-related or other health conditions—unless those claims are not misleading and are proven to be true by human clinical testing.

The defendants are also barred from making unsubstantiated claims about the performance, benefits, or efficacy of their programs, including claims about improvement in school grades or scores on standardized academic tests, performance on everyday tasks, increased income, or superiority to academic tutoring.

The order also prohibits the defendants from misrepresenting the existence or results of any tests or studies, and from providing others with the means to make the prohibited claims.

The order imposes a $4,000,000 judgment against LearningRx, which will be suspended upon the payment of $200,000.