LOS ANGELES (CN) - A class action claims the child-education company Your Baby Can and the Ph.D. who founded it make "$90 million in annual revenue" by selling "Your Baby Can Read!" video programs with the bogus claim that "the program can teach infants as young as 3 months old to read by as early as 9 months old." No, it can't, the class says.
Named plaintiff Tondia Johnson sued the Carlsbad-based company and its founder and lead pitchman, Robert Titzer, Ph.D., of Bonsall, in Superior Court.
"Defendants have perpetrated this hoax on nearly 1 million consumers, preying upon the vulnerabilities of parents desperate to give their children a head start on life," the complaint states. "Defendants have generated $90 million in annual revenue and spent nearly $37 million to disseminate their false and misleading claims in a television, radio, print and Internet campaign featuring Dr. Titzer, YBC's founder and spokesman for the Your Baby Can Read! System."
The class claims that "child development experts from Tufts, Harvard, New York University, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, Case Western Reserve, and other esteemed universities have described Dr. Titzer's claims as false and misleading, 'and extraordinary manipulation of facts,' and that those claims 'raises [sic] false expectations."
The class claims that "Prominent members of the child development community have argued that products such as the Your Baby Can Read! System are marketed and sold to parents who want to do everything they can to give their infant children a head start on life and that unscrupulous marketers prey on this vulnerability."
The complaint cites an April 2000 statement from Matthew Melmed, executive director of the nonprofit National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families, who called efforts to translate early child-development research "'into specific products to boost babies' brainpower is really an abomination-a commercial abomination.'
"Defendants have taken this 'commercial abomination' to a new level by making, among others, the following false and misleading representations in their advertising and marketing materials:" Then come seven specific allegations, including, "The Your Baby Can Read! System can teach you three-month old child to read by the time the child is only nine months old ... The Your Baby Can Read! System is an appropriate tool for teaching your infants with Down syndrome or autism to read from a very young age; The Your Baby Can Read! System can prevent your child from developing dyslexia and other learning disabilities ..."
The defendants "maintain that numerous scientific studies support the use of the Your Baby Can Read! System," the complaint states, but it adds, "No such studies exist."
Titzer started selling his system around 1997.
"Dr. Titzer claims to have developed the Your Baby Can Read! System working not in a laboratory, but in his home," according to the complaint. "Remarkably, Dr. Titzer maintains that by the time his daughters were four years old they were able to read much better than he was and better than the college level students that he was teaching at the time."
Titzer has been selling "various incarnations" of his system since 1997, with a deluxe version going for $199.95, according to the complaint.
The class adds that although Titzer promises a "money back guarantee" within 30 days, the promise is "illusory because defendants claim that it takes well more than thirty days to see any results. ... By the time parents realize that the Your Baby Can Read! System is worthless, they are already five months too late to exercise their 30-day risk-free guarantee
The class seeks restitution and punitive damages deceptive trade, unjust enrichment and breach of contract - the "perpetuation of the elaborate hoax on parents across the country." They are represented by Marc Reich with Reich Radcliffe & Kuttler.
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