The FTC has filed a new complaint, alleging false advertising charges against Your Baby Can LLC, Hugh Penton, Jr., the company’s former president and CEO, and Dr. Robert Titzer, the product creator. The complaint charges that the Your Baby Can Read! program falsely led consumers to believe that it could teach toddlers and infants to read.

The $200 program, which included videos, flash cards, and pop-up books, was advertised online and via infomercials, with claims that children as young as nine months could learn to read. One ad featured a two-year-old girl reading a page from Charlotte’s Web, while another depicted a home video of 18-month-old Charley reading flash cards like “turtle.”

The agency said the defendants failed to provide competent and reliable scientific evidence that babies could learn to read using the program.

The company and Penton reached a settlement with the agency, agreeing to pay $500,000 to suspend a $185 million judgment (reflecting total sales from January 2008 to the present). The defendants are also barred from future use of the term “Your Baby Can Read,” as well as misrepresenting the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any product or service for teaching reading or speech.

Dr. Titzer – who is also accused of making deceptive expert endorsements – is continuing to litigate the case.

To read the complaint in FTC v. Your Baby Can, click here.

Why it matters: The case reminds marketers they must be able to substantiate claims with competent, reliable scientific evidence or face the potential of regulatory action with accompanying financial and injunctive relief.