What’s the News?

Focus Education, LLC, a leading provider in the growing market for cognitive improvement products, recently settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over charges that it was misleading consumers through the use of deceptive advertising tactics. Specifically, the FTC took issue with claims that the company’s primary product, the ifocus System, would bring about permanent cognitive improvement in children.

The ifocus System and the FTC Settlement

The centerpiece of Focus Education’s ifocus System is “Jungle Rangers,” an interactive computer game for children. The game features embedded cognitive tasks that are designed to stimulate neural pathways for focus, attention, and concentration. Such games are part of a robust and growing industry: in 2013, Americans spent $1.3 million on “brain games” purported to enhance cognitive functioning.

Since 2012, Focus Education has marketed the ifocus System through infomercials and the company’s website. According to the FTC complaint, the company advertised that its products were scientifically proven to enhance children’s cognitive functioning and school performance — including children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Moreover, the company claimed that, once attained, these improvements would be permanent. The FTC alleged, however, that these claims were not substantiated by reliable scientific evidence.

The consent order settling the FTC charges prohibits Focus Education from making these or similar claims about the benefits of its products unless they are supported by sufficient evidence. It further enjoins the company from misrepresenting the results of any test, study, or research. In addition, for any study used to substantiate product claims in the future, the company is required to secure and preserve underlying data that can be used to assess the reliability of the study.

What Businesses Should Know Going Forward

This settlement is the most recent example of the FTC’s increased investigative focus on companies operating in the emerging market of cognitive improvement tools. Expect this trend to continue, especially with regard to products marketed for children. Accordingly, companies in this industry should ensure that their product claims are supported by reliable data, and that they otherwise comply with applicable consumer protection regulations.