January 21, 2015 / 2:05 AM / 5 years ago

Brain-training game maker settles with U.S. FTC over unsupported claims

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A Texas company that makes brain-training games for children has settled a complaint over unsubstantiated health claims, the U.S. government said on Tuesday.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission said Focus Education claimed in an advertisement and on its website that it could permanently improve a child’s focus, memory and school performance. The company also said its technology had proven to be “highly beneficial” for children with learning impairments such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

In a statement, the FTC said the company must stop making such claims for products including the Jungle Rangers computer game.

The FTC said Focus Education generated sales of some $4.5 million between 2012 and mid-2013.

Focus Education did not respond to an email request for comment.

It stressed on its website that its game was developed through a collaboration of scientists, researchers, doctors and parents.

The case was among the first in which the commission has cracked down on an application developer for making unsubstantiated medical claims. Previously, the FTC fined two app developers who falsely claimed that their smartphone apps could treat and cure acne.

Some industry experts believe the FTC will increasingly become the watchdog for the fertile field of mobile health.

“We could well see FTC taking the primary enforcement role,” said Bradley Merrill Thompson, a Washington D.C.-based attorney with the firm Epstein Becker & Green. That the FTC took action, rather than the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, represents an important shift, Thompson added.

To avoid federal oversight, app makers should be “precise, accurate and careful” with their marketing claims, said Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, an organization that represents app developers.

Reporting By Christina Farr; Editing by Ken Wills

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