Almost exactly two years after the Federal Trade Commission accused the people behind the popular “Your Baby Can Read” training program of making deceptive advertising claims, the product’s creator has finally reached a deal to settle charges that he and his company made baseless pronouncements about the effectiveness of the program and that they misrepresented scientific studies to prove these bogus statements.
Your Baby Can Read, created by Dr. Robert Titzer, raked in more than $185 million from the sales of its $200 kits. The program made claims in ads, infomercials, and on social media that it could teach babies to read as early as nine months out of the womb, and that kids who used YBCR could handle reading something as complicated as a Harry Potter book by the age of three or four.
In 2013, the FTC’s complaint was amended to allege that the makers of YBCR lacked competent and reliable scientific evidence to show that the program could actually teach babies to read, or that the program helped very young children reach advanced levels of reading at a preschool age.
The amended complaint also charged Dr. Titzer with making deceptive expert endorsements for YBCR.
Titzer touted the program, even after the initial FTC complaint, by making supportive statements about YBCR, including that it “gives infants and children an early start on academic learning, allowing them to perform better in school and later in life than children who did not use the program,” or that “Scientific studies prove that Your Baby Can Read! teaches infants and children to read.” However, the FTC alleged that the research Titzer used to support these claims was not sufficient.
According to the 2013 complaint, Titzer “did not exercise his purported expertise in infant research in the form of an examination or testing of the Your Baby Can Read! program, at least as extensive as an expert in infant research would normally conduct, in order to support the conclusions presented in his endorsement.”
As part of the deal with the FTC Titzer and his company are prohibited from making unsubstantiated claims about the performance or efficacy of any product that teaches reading, and neither defendant can use the statement “Your Baby Can Read.”
Dr. Titzer is barred from endorsing any product unless he has a reasonable basis for the claims made. He must also pay a penalty of $300,000.