Feds: Your baby can't read

Parents who want to believe their babies can do more, learn more and otherwise supercharge their brains were a natural market for "Your Baby Can Read" products.

For years, consumers were peppered with infomercials and Internet ads claiming that parents and caregivers who used the system could have kids reading such books as the Harry Potter series by the time they were 3 or 4.

The company claimed that through the "Your Baby Can Read" flash cards, lift-a-flap books and videos that as early children as young as nine-months-old could start to read. The program cost about $200.

Not so, the federal government has decreed. In a settlement announced Friday by the Federal Trade Commission, the founder of "Your Baby Can Read," Dr. Robert Titzer, along with his company, Infant Learning, agreed to judgments of more than $185 million to resolve charges filed by the agency alleging the program had no scientific evidence to make the claims.

The FTC settled on that figure because $185 million was amounted to Infant Learning's gross sales from Baby Can Read. The company that marketed the program went out of business in 2012 when the agency first took action against it. However, the FTC said it was still selling copies of the program online after that time. Infant Learn and Titzer are still selling child education programs online.

The settlement allows for most of the financial penalty to be suspended after Titzer pays $300,000. That is typical when the defendant is unable to pay the full judgment.

"Marketers and expert endorsers must have adequate substantiation for the claims they make, and the FTC will continue to pursue those who fail to abide by this basic rule," FTC Consumer Protection Director Jessica Rich said in a statement.

  • Mitch Lipka On Twitter» On Facebook»

    Mitch Lipka is an award-winning consumer columnist. He was in charge of consumer news for AOL's personal finance site and was a senior editor at Consumer Reports. He was also a reporter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, among other publications.

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