Company that said it could teach babies to read faces new complaint

Last Updated Mar 23, 2016 8:35 AM EDT

In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission ordered Infant Learning, the company behind the "Your Baby Can Read!" series, to stop claiming that it can, in fact, teach babies to read.

But Infant Learning, founded by Dr. Robert Titzer, is still marketing the product under a different name -- "Your Baby Can Learn!" -- the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) alleges, saying this violates the company's agreement with the consumer protection agency.

Infant Learning and Titzer "assert without competent scientific support that Your Baby Can Learn! is scientifically proven to help children learn written language and vocabulary skills," a law firm for the advocacy group, which works to deter companies from targeting children with advertisements and marketing, wrote in a March 22 letter to the FTC.

The group also says the company sells some products that falsely claim to increase children's phonetic awareness and their ability to recognize colors, patterns, shapes and musical pitch.

Infant Learning says that the FTC has not expressed concerns regarding the company's marketing of these products.

Infant Learning said it is complying with the FTC's order and that it was the agency that suggested changing the name of its program to Your Baby Can Learn!

"We carefully follow the FTC guidelines in our very limited advertising, and we can easily substantiate any claim we do make with competent and reliable scientific information," said Sharon Patterson, a spokeswoman for the company, in an emailed statement, noting that the company's methods are used in countries around the world.

Infant Learning also said it offers customers a full refund if they return a product within six months of purchase.

Before the FTC's 2014 order, Infant Learning claimed that its "Your Baby Can Read!" series of DVDs, flash cards, books and other products were scientifically proven to teach babies as young as nine months how to read, according to CCFC.

Along with showing a graph of brain development that purportedly showed an improvement in cognitive ability from using the learning aids early in a child's life, the company also used testimonials from parents who vouched for the product. The series was widely advertised in TV infomercials and the Internet.

The FTC found that Infant Learning had no reliable evidence that babies could learn how to read using its program, which range in price from about $8 to $200, and it barred the company and a related firm, Your Baby Can LLC, from misrepresenting the products' benefits. Those included a parent testimonial for YBC's product that it enable kids as young as three to read books like the Harry Potter series and that it would give them an edge in school compared with children who didn't use the product.

The agency also hit Infant Learning, Titzer and another defendant with a monetary judgment of $185 million.

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