WASHINGTON — Many babies at 9 months old are just starting to stand up. Some take their first steps. But reading?
The Federal Trade Commission doesn't think so.
The agency has filed a complaint against Robert Titzer, the man behind the Your Baby Can Read program. The FTC accuses him of false and deceptive advertising for promoting his program in ads and product packaging as a tool to teach infants as young as 9 months to read.
The Your Baby Can Read program used a combination of videos, flash cards and pop-up books and was advertised extensively on TV, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. It cost about $200 and was sold nationwide at retails stores, including Walmart and Babies "R" Us.
The Your Baby Can company and its chief executive until March 2010, Hugh Penton Jr., also were named in the complaint. Both have agreed to settle the charges, the FTC said. The settlement imposes a $185 million judgment — equal to the company's gross sales since 2008 — but most of it would be suspended due to the company's failing financial condition.
The company, based in Carlsbad, Calif., announced earlier this year that it was going out of business. It cited the high cost of fighting complaints that alleged its ads were false.
Titzer, an educator with a doctorate from Indiana University, developed the program and appeared in many of the ads promoting the Your Baby Can Read videos and program. He was billed as a "recognized expert in infant learning."
According to the FTC, Titzer and the company said they had studies to back up their claims. But the agency says those studies were flawed.