FTC Halts Use of “Your Baby Can Read” Product Claim

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has effectively said your baby can’t read. They’ve settled with Dr. Robert Titzer and Infant Learning, Inc. saying the “Your Baby Can Read” program misrepresents scientific studies and makes baseless claims.

The program, which uses flash cards and books to allegedly teach infants as young as nine months old to read, was promoted extensively online and in infomercials. Some of the defendants in this case previously settled with the FTC in 2012.

Here is a summary of the case from the FTC’s press release:

“The stipulated final order… prohibits Titzer and his company from making any unsubstantiated claims about the performance or efficacy of any product that teaches reading. It also prohibits them from using the term ‘Your Baby Can Read,’ bars them from misrepresenting the results of any tests or research, and prohibits Titzer from endorsing any product unless he has a reasonable basis for the claims made. Finally, the order imposes two monetary judgments against Titzer and his company totaling more than $185 million, which will be suspended after he pays $300,000.”

The company’s BBB Business Review says it is out-of-business, and its website has no active links to any contact information, although the products and ordering page still appear to be active.

Consumers should be wary of any products that make extravagant claims that are far outside the norms. The old adage, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” makes a lot of sense!

It’s also a good idea to carefully check out websites before ordering for the first time. At a minimum, any website that takes credit card information should be secure (there will be an “s” either before or after the “http” in the website’s URL). Look for the Contact Us or Customer Service information. Never order from a website that doesn’t offer a way to contact the company other than online. A physical address and a phone number should be included. Since these can also be faked, do a little research first. Google the phone number or check out the address on mapping software. Watch out for spellings or grammatical errors in the content. And, of course, check out the business on bbb.org.

BBB’s Code of Advertising offers helpful guidelines for businesses and advertising agencies, and clearly states, “The primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests with the advertiser.” Advertising review is one of the core services offered by all BBBs, so if you see an ad that seems extravagant or unrealistic, send a copy to your BBB and ask them to look into it.

And keep reading to your baby. Research shows it’s one of the best ways to stimulate an infant’s brain. Just don’t expect your baby to read to you!

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About Katherine Hutt

Katherine R. Hutt, Director of Communications and Media Relations with the Council of Better Business Bureaus, is an award-winning communicator who has been helping nonprofit organizations tell their stories for the past 25 years. She was a CBBB consultant on numerous projects for more than a decade before joining the staff in 2011.