The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has filed false advertising charges against the marketers of Your Baby Can Read! – a program that was widely touted in infomercials and on the Internet. I remember the ads about the program, and also remembering wondering if I should be doing it for my kids just in case in actually worked . . . If you remember, the program uses videos, flash cards, and pop-up books that supposedly teach children as young as nine months old how to read.
The FTC’s press release indicates that the complaint charges Your Baby Can, LLC, its former CEO Hugh Penton Jr., and the product’s creator with false and deceptive advertising – namely that the program could teach your infant or toddler to read and that the program was supported with scientific studies . Your Baby Can, LLC, and the former CEO have agreed to settle with the FTC. The principal and product’s creator, Robert Titzer, Ph.D, has not settled, and he is also charged with making deceptive expert endorsements.
The settlement is interesting – it prohibits the defendants from further use of the term “Your Baby Can Read.” The settlement also imposes a $185 million judgment, which equals the company’s gross sales since January 2008. However, since the company is in a dire financial situation, once Your Baby Can makes a payment of $500,000, the remainder of the judgment will be suspended. If it is later determined that the financial information the company gave the FTC was false, the full amount of the judgment will become due. Also, the settlement order against Penton and Your Baby Can LLC prohibits them from misrepresenting the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any product or service for teaching reading or speech, or enhancing language ability, cognitive ability, school performance, or brain development. They also are barred under the settlement from misrepresenting that scientific support exists for such assertions.
According to the complaint, the defendants sold the Your Baby Can Read! program to parents and grandparents of children aged three months to five years since at least January 2008, charging about $200 for each kit and taking in more than $185 million.