It turns out that the promise from brain training website Lumosity that one could become smarter simply by playing “brain games” was a complete hoax. Now the website is on the hook for $2 million that will be paid to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for deceptive trade practices.
The brain training website promised its users that they could delay and reverse the mental effects of aging, while keeping their minds sharp just by playing some online games. Users were also promised that they could perform better in school and at work by playing the games. But without the scientific evidence to support these claims, Lumosity is now going to pay dearly.
FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich said in a statement, “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.”
All users who joined the auto-renewal program of Lumosity between 2009 and 2014 are being notified about the action from the FTC. Each user will be provided with a simple way to exit the program in order to avoid future billing.
The Lumosity program consists of 40 different online games that are supposedly designed to target and improve certain areas of the brain. Lumosity stated that playing these games for just 10 to 15 minutes per day only three or four times a week would allow users to “achieve their full potential in every aspect of life.” Users are able to purchase monthly subscriptions for $14.95 or a lifetime subscription for $299.95.
Lumosity has been heavily promoted both on television and satellite radio. The website also made use of Google AdWords in order to drive traffic. Lumosity has been known for purchasing hundreds of keywords associated with memory, cognition, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
The complaint from the FTC also mentioned that many of the consumer testimonials that were featured on the Lumosity website were not accurate, but rather they were solicited through contests that promised prizes such as a free iPad, a trip to San Francisco and a lifetime Lumosity subscription.