A Texas company and its officers must stop making unsubstantiated claims that their computer game, Jungle Rangers, permanently improves children’s focus, memory, attention, behavior, and school performance, including for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), under a Federal Trade Commission settlement.
“This case is the most recent example of the FTC’s efforts to ensure that advertisements for cognitive products, especially those marketed for children, are true and supported by evidence,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection. “Many parents are interested in products that can improve their children’s focus, behavior, and grades, but companies must back up their brain training claims with reliable science.”
The FTC’s administrative complaint states that Focus Education, its chief executive officer, Michael Apstein, and its chief financial officer, John Able, have marketed and sold the ifocus System, including the Jungle Rangers computer game, via television infomercials and the company’s websites for $214.75 plus tax, generating sales of approximately $4.5 million between 2012 and the middle of 2013.
The advertisements claimed that Jungle Rangers had “scientifically proven memory and attention brain training exercises, designed to improve focus, concentration and memory” and touted the software as giving children “the ability to focus, complete school work, homework, and to stay on task.” Focus Education’s website implied that these benefits would be permanent.
The infomercial featured children stating that because of Jungle Rangers they could “pay attention to [their] teacher a lot more,” and got “better grades,” and “a lot more 100 percents,” according to the complaint. Parents, teachers, and a child psychiatrist also appeared, stating that Jungle Rangers had improved children’s school performance and behavior.
The FTC has charged that Focus Education and its officers violated the FTC Act by making false or unsubstantiated claims that the ifocus System permanently improves children’s focus, memory, attention, behavior, and/or school performance, including in children with ADHD. The company also allegedly falsely claimed that these benefits were scientifically proven.
The proposed consent order settling the FTC’s charges prohibits Focus Education and its principals from making the claims alleged in the complaint about the ifocus System (or any substantially similar product), unless the claims are non-misleading and are supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
The proposed order further prohibits the company and its principals from making unsubstantiated claims about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of products or services that supposedly alter the brain’s structure or function, improve cognitive abilities, behavior, or academic performance, or treat or reduce the symptoms of cognitive disorders, including ADHD.
Finally, the proposed order bars the company and its principals from misrepresenting the results of any test, study, or research; or misrepresenting that the benefits of a cognitive improvement product are scientifically proven.
Further details of the settlement can be found in the analysis to aid public comment for this matter.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent order for public comment was 5-0. The FTC will publish a description of the consent agreement package in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 30 days, beginning today and continuing through February 20, 2015, after which the Commission will decide whether to make the proposed consent order final. Interested parties can submit comments electronically by following the instructions in the “Invitation To Comment” part of the “Supplementary Information” section.
NOTE: The Commission issues an administrative complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. When the Commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $16,000.
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