Just before Labor Day, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed false advertising charges against the marketers of “Your Baby Can Read!” The program, widely promoted via infomercials and the Internet, purports to use videos, flash cards and pop-up books to teach babies as young as 3 months old how to read. The complaint charges Your Baby, LLC, its former CEO, and the program’s creator, Dr. Robert Titzer, with false and deceptive advertising and deceptive expert endorsements. According to the complaint, the defendants failed to provide competent and reliable scientific evidence that babies can learn to read using the program, or that children at age 3 or 4 can learn to read books such as Charlotte’s Web or Harry Potter.
The program’s former President and CEO, Hugh Penton, Jr., has already settled with the FTC. The settlement imposes a $185 million judgment (equal to the company’s gross sales since January 2008), but suspends the judgment upon the payment of $500,000 because of the company’s financial condition.
This case is one of many recent FTC cases attacking the issue of “competent and reliable scientific evidence.” Advertisers should monitor the FTC’s enforcement actions to stay abreast of changes.