07/449 DECISION Meeting 13 November 2007 Complaint 07/449
Complainant: T. Chester Advertisement: Brand Developers Limited Complaint: The 30 minute long television infomercial for EyeQ (Key No: BD 2815 EQ1) promoted the product with a range of explanations and people giving testimonials about the effectiveness of the product. It included claims relating toimprovements in reading speeds to improved ability in oral comprehension, referring to a child’s improved ability to comprehend what a teacher says. The advertisement also made various claims regarding the brain such as referring to the EyeQ programme as a “revolutionary reading and brain enhancement programme” which could “energise the brain”. It expanded on this saying: “Most of us use only half our brain when we read…” and the right side of the brain, the creative side shuts down. The advertisement claimed that “EyeQ recreates the creative imaginative side of the brain” which assists one to become fully engaged – “a better faster reader with better comprehension skills”. Complainant, T. Chester, said: “Type: Television Where: Speed reading software. Prime TV Infomercial 6-7am approx Sept 3rd Who: Infinite mind? Product: Eye Q Complaint The product claims that reading speed is directly linked to audio comprehension, so if a student reads at 200wpm and a teacher speaks at 400wpm then a student will only comprehend half of what the teacher is saying. This is untrue and a blatant attempt to scare parents into buying the software. It also claims that both sides of the brain are fully awakened by this software. Also untrue. Testimonies given are of reading speed
increases during use of the software. This is misleading, as a true test of reading speed should be outside the context of the software. Basically, if the general claims were true, then the software would probably not need infomercials to sell. Therefore, especially with educational products, the claims made should be proven to be true before the advertiser agrees to air the commercial.” The Chairman ruled that the following provision was relevant: Code of Ethics Rule 2: Truthful Presentation - Advertisements should not contain any statement or visual presentation or create an overall impression which directly or by implication, omission, ambiguity or exaggerated claim is misleading or deceptive, is likely to deceive or mislead the consumer, makes false and misleading representation, abuses the trust of the consumer or exploits his/her lack of experience or knowledge. (Obvious hyperbole, identifiable as such, is not considered to be misleading). The Advertiser, Brand Developers Limited, said: “Enclosed is some information regarding Eye Q. Regarding the comprehending I have been informed by Eye Q that teachers have been relaying this to them, I have asked for them to put it on their letter head and send to us. I strongly disagree with T. Chester's remarks and claims, and he does not elaborate on them very well for me to understand. If you require farther information I can request it from the US or Japan but a lot of it is in the Japanese language.” Television Commercial Approvals Bureau (TVCAB) said on behalf of the media: “We have been asked to respond to this complaint under the Code of Ethics Rule 2 No commercial should impair the public confidence in advertising. The TVCAB believes the product in this advertisement has been reasonably presented, with the functionality of the EyeQ Method being logically explained, and the testimonials validated. The complainant claims blatant untruths are stated. While it is always the right of a consumer to challenge an advertisement and the advertiser must then substantiate any claim, surely the challenge needs to be more than a three word opinion. Surely there must be a "because" in there, unless the complainant can demonstrate some specialized knowledge or expertise in the matter. The TVCAB is not qualified to assess the left brain/right brain comments, or the link between audio and reading comprehension, but did accept them as being reasonably substantiated.
Speed reading courses have existed for years. They have been used by students and professionals to accelerate their intake and comprehension of information. The EyeQ concept is a computerised development of the older methods, with a few extras built-in. Anyone who has taken any speed reading course will know how immediate, and sometimes how amazing the results are. The complainant's view is that the testimonials of speed increases are not valid because they are measured on the software. However, the software is the only accurate way of measuring increases and most of the people then related their improvements on the course to their improvements in their every day work or studies reading. What is learnt and practiced on the EyeQ course is then applied to everyday reading. There have always been extra aids available to people to assist learning and education. From the Encyclopedia Brittanica of last century, to EyeQ today, there is a demand for products to give individuals an extra edge to what the education system offers. EyeQ is a well researched and well developed product. It has been tested and sold for some time in USA. It is not cheap, but not as expensive as many Play Station type games. It is backed with a performance guarantee so the consumer is properly protected. One may not appreciate the nuances of a Shakespearian sonnet with EyeQ, or any speed reading system, but in this age of information overload it has genuine benefits for many people. The TVCAB sees this complaint as an uninformed negative opinion rather than a complaint of genuine substance and there is no breach of the Code of Ethics Rule 2.” Deliberation
The Complaints Board perused the complaint and correspondence before it as well as viewing the television advertisement. It noted Complainant, T. Chester, was of the view that the advertisement made exaggerated claims which were misleading. The Chairman directed the Complaints Board to consider the complaint with regard to Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics. Turning to Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics, the task before the Complaints Board was to determine whether the advertisement contained any statement which directly or by implication, or exaggerated claim was misleading, or likely to mislead the consumer. The Complaints Board restated its long held requirement for an advertiser to provide substantiation of a claim made in an advertisement should that claim be challenged. It said such substantiation should preferably be in the form of independent research results of a robust nature. The Advertiser had provided the Complaints Board with a series of brain scan images which compared the appearance of the brain when “Reading before training” and “Reading after training”. A further series of images supplied by the Advertiser was labeled:
“Annotated Brain Images showing Visual Cortex and Broca’s Area where significant changes were found between pre- and post-training.” However, the Complaints Board was not able to interpret the visual images shown as it was not an arbiter of scientific fact, and as such did not have the expertise to deduce any conclusions from the images provided. Furthermore, there was no indication of where, how or by whom the research had been undertaken. Accordingly, the Complaints Board ruled that the advertisement made an exaggerated and misleading claims where it referred to the effect that the programme had on “both sides of the brain”. The Complaints Board ruled that the advertisement was in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics, in respect of this issue. The Complaints Board however was satisfied that the “EyeQ Results from www.beyondtutoring.com” provided by the Advertiser did in fact show an increase in reading speed by those who had participated in the programme advertised. As such the advertisement was not found to be misleading or in breach of Rule 2 in respect of the claim that it could increase a pupil’s reading speed. However, no explanation or substation of any type had been provided in response to the query raised by the Complainant in reference to the claim in the advertisement that reading speed and ability to comprehend oral material were linked. In the Complaints Board’s view reading and listening were two different skills and to suggest a correlation was, in its view, misleading. As nothing in support of the claim had been tabled, the Complaints Board ruled that the advertisement was in breach of Rule 2 of the Code of Ethics, with regard to this issue. Having made the above observations, the Complaints Board ruled to uphold the complaint.
Decision: Complaint Upheld