UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

In the Matter of 

HOWARD S. BERG individually.

FILE NO.

AGREEMENT CONTAINING

CONSENT ORDER

The Federal Trade Commission has conducted an investigation of certain acts and practices of Howard S. Berg, individually ("proposed respondent"). Proposed respondent, having been represented by counsel, is willing to enter into an agreement containing a consent order resolving the allegations contained in the attached draft complaint. Therefore,

IT IS HEREBY AGREED by and between, Howard S. Berg, individually, and counsel for the Federal Trade Commission that:

1. Proposed respondent Howard S. Berg, individually or in concert with others, actively participated in the creation and dissemination of a program length television commercial which promoted Howard Berg’s Mega Reading. He resides at 1001 Greenbriar Lane, McKinney, TX 75069.

2. Proposed respondent admits all the jurisdictional facts set forth in the draft complaint.

3. Proposed respondent waives:

a. Any further procedural steps;

b. The requirement that the Commission's decision contain a statement of findings of fact and conclusions of law; and

c. All rights to seek judicial review or otherwise to challenge or contest the validity of the order entered pursuant to this agreement.

4. This agreement shall not become part of the public record of the proceeding unless and until it is accepted by the Commission. If this agreement is accepted by the Commission, it, together with the draft complaint, will be placed on the public record for a period of sixty (60) days and information about it publicly released. The Commission thereafter may either withdraw its acceptance of this agreement and so notify proposed respondents, in which event it will take such action as it may consider appropriate, or issue and serve its complaint (in such form as the circumstances may require) and decision in disposition of the proceeding.

5. This agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by proposed respondent that the law has been violated as alleged in the draft complaint, or that the facts as alleged in the draft complaint, other than the jurisdictional facts, are true.

6. This agreement contemplates that, if it is accepted by the Commission, and if such acceptance is not subsequently withdrawn by the Commission pursuant to the provisions of Section 2.34 of the Commission's Rules, the Commission may, without further notice to proposed respondent, (1) issue its complaint corresponding in form and substance with the attached draft complaint and its decision containing the following order in disposition of the proceeding, and (2) make information about it public. When so entered, the order shall have the same force and effect and may be altered, modified, or set aside in the same manner and within the same time provided by statute for other orders. The order shall become final upon service. Delivery of the complaint and the decision and order to proposed respondent by any means specified in Section 4.4 of the Commission's Rules shall constitute service. Proposed respondent waives any right he may have to any other manner of service. The complaint may be used in construing the terms of the order. No agreement, understanding, representation, or interpretation not contained in the order or in the agreement may be used to vary or contradict the terms of the order.

7. Proposed respondent has read the draft complaint and consent order. He understands that he may be liable for civil penalties in the amount provided by law and other appropriate relief for each violation of the order after it becomes final.

DEFINITIONS

For purposes of this order, the following definitions shall apply:

  1. "Competent and reliable scientific evidence" shall mean tests, analyses, research, studies, or other evidence based on the expertise of professionals in the relevant area, that has been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by persons qualified to do so, using procedures generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.
  2. Unless otherwise specified, "respondent" shall mean Howard S. Berg, individually and his agents, representatives and employees.
  3. "Commerce" shall mean as defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. 44.

ORDER

I.

IT IS ORDERED that respondent, directly or through any corporation, subsidiary, division, or other device, in connection with the labeling, advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of Howard Berg’s Mega Reading or any substantially similar product in or affecting commerce, shall not represent, in any manner, expressly or by implication, that such product is successful in teaching anyone, including adults, children and disabled individuals, to increase their reading speed above 800 words per minute while substantially comprehending and retaining the material. For purposes of this Part, “substantially similar product” shall mean any product that is substantially similar in components, techniques, composition and properties.

II.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent, directly or through any corporation, subsidiary, division, or other device, in connection with the labeling, advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of any product or program purported to significantly increase one’s reading speed in or affecting commerce, shall not make any representation, in any manner, expressly or by implication, about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of such product, unless, at the time the representation is made, respondent possesses and relies upon competent and reliable evidence, which when appropriate must be competent and reliable scientific evidence, that substantiates the representation.

III.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent Howard S. Berg shall, for five (5) years after the last date of dissemination of any representation covered by this order, maintain and upon request make available to the Federal Trade Commission for inspection and copying:

A. All advertisements and promotional materials containing the representation;
 
B. All materials that were relied upon in disseminating the representation; and
 
C. All tests, reports, studies, surveys, demonstrations, or other evidence in their possession or control that contradict, qualify, or call into question the representation, or the basis relied upon for the representation, including complaints and other communications with consumers or with governmental or consumer protection organizations.

IV.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent Howard S. Berg, for a period of ten (10) years after the date of issuance of this order, shall notify the Commission of the discontinuance of his current business or employment, or of his affiliation with any new business or employment. The notice shall include respondent’s new business address and telephone number and a description of the nature of the business or employment and his duties and responsibilities. All notices required by this Part shall be sent by certified mail to the Associate Director, Division of Enforcement, Bureau of Consumer Protection, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580.

V.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that respondent Howard S. Berg shall, within sixty (60) days after the date of service of this order, and at such other times as the Federal Trade Commission may require, file with the Commission a report, in writing, setting forth in detail the manner and form in which it has complied with this order.

VI.

This order will terminate twenty (20) years from the date of its issuance, or twenty (20) years from the most recent date that the United States or the Federal Trade Commission files a complaint (with or without an accompanying consent decree) in federal court alleging any violation of the order, whichever comes later; provided, however, that the filing of such a complaint will not affect the duration of:

A. Any Part in this order that terminates in less than twenty (20) years;
 
B. This order's application to any respondent that is not named as a defendant in such complaint; and
 
C. This order if such complaint is filed after the order has terminated pursuant to this Part.

Provided, further, that if such complaint is dismissed or a federal court rules that the respondent did not violate any provision of the order, and the dismissal or ruling is either not appealed or upheld on appeal, then the order will terminate according to this Part as though the complaint had never been filed, except that the order will not terminate between the date such complaint is filed and the later of the deadline for appealing such dismissal or ruling and the date such dismissal or ruling is upheld on appeal.

Signed this day of ________, 1998

HOWARD S. BERG
individually

RUSSELL W. DAMTOFT
Counsel for the Federal Trade Commission

MARY ELIZABETH TORTORICE
Counsel for the Federal Trade Commission

CHARULATA B. PAGAR
Counsel for the Federal Trade Commission

APPROVED:

C. STEVEN BAKER
Director
Chicago Regional Office

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

In the Matter of

HOWARD S. BERG, individually.

DOCKET NO.

COMPLAINT

The Federal Trade Commission, having reason to believe that Howard S. Berg, individually ("respondent"), has violated the provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act, and it appearing to the Commission that this proceeding is in the public interest, alleges:

1. Respondent Howard S. Berg has advertised, offered for sale, sold, and distributed products to the public, including Howard Berg’s Mega Reading. Individually or in concert with others, he participated in the acts or practices alleged in this complaint. He resides at 1001 Greenbriar Lane, Mc Kinney, TX 75069.

2.Respondent participated with Tru-Vantage International, L.L.C. and Kevin Trudeau in the production of a program-length television commercial which runs for 30 minutes or less and fits within normal television broadcasting time slots. The television commercial was and is broadcast on network, independent and cable television stations throughout the United States. During the television commercial, respondent acted as the guest and promoted Howard Berg’s Mega Reading.

3. The acts and practices of respondent alleged in this complaint have been in or affecting commerce, as "commerce" is defined in Section 4 of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

4. Respondent has created, and disseminated advertisements for Howard Berg’s Mega Reading, including but not necessarily limited to the attached Exhibit A. This advertisement contain the following statements:

Berg:“I teach children not just how to read faster but to comprehend, retain and stay focused. . . . So, Mega Reading is a complete accelerated learning system that doesn't just teach you to read quickly.

Trudeau: Right.

Berg:On a skimming level.

Trudeau: Right.

Berg:But to comprehend, apply and use it. Even under test situations.

*****

Berg:I'm working with companies like Pfizer, Mobil Oil, that have high tech reading. And they used it because it was easy to retain complicated information.

Trudeau: So, even the detailed complicated material, people can read quickly and grasp it and comprehend it and recall it.

Berg:Over long periods of time.

*****

Berg:They hired me to train their editors not only in how to speed read but how to make books easier to comprehend, because my program teaches people how to understand text.

Trudeau: Right.

Berg:Not just blur through it.

*****

Trudeau: Folks, if you want more information on Howard's program, Mega Reading program, it's

a home study course that you can go through at your leisure and it will virtually release your own super reading speed, mega reading. You'll be able to read almost as fast as Howard. Virtually quadruple, five, ten times your reading speed right now.

*****

Berg: I have a letter here from a girl who has brain damage.

Trudeau: Right.

Berg:Brain damage. She was in a car accident and half her brain stopped functioning. It was electrically dead.

Trudeau: Right.

Berg:And she writes. It says that on a coffee break in my word shop, she went three to 600 words per minute. This is someone with severe brain damage. So yes, it works for anyone. And you can't get worse than that.

*****

Berg:At the end of the workshop, every child and parent had at least doubled except for one.

Trudeau: Uh-huh.

Berg:That child was reading at five seconds a page and I quizzed her.

Trudeau: Five seconds.

Berg:Five seconds a page. And the vice principal was there.

Trudeau: And they're reading it?

Berg: Comprehending it and retaining it.

*****

Berg:Anybody. In fact, I had a blind student in Huntsville, Alabama.

Trudeau: Yeah.

Berg: I swear to you it's true.

Trudeau: Wait a minute. You can't read if you can't see.

Berg:She was reading in Braille.

Trudeau: Oh, okay.

Berg:And she took the program to learn the memory skills. Because a lot of people when they hear speed reading, they think fast reading. With Mega Reading it's not just fast reading, it's fast learning. Remember what Tommy said, it's a complete accelerated learning program. And what I teach them is storing, retrieving, recalling, focusing.

5. Through the means described in Paragraph 4 , respondent has represented, expressly or by implication, that Howard Berg’s Mega Reading is successful in teaching anyone, including adults, children and disabled individuals, to significantly increase their reading speed while substantially comprehending and retaining the material.

6. In truth and in fact Howard Berg’s Mega Reading is not successful in teaching anyone, including adults, children and disabled individuals, to significantly increase their reading speed while substantially comprehending and retaining the material. Therefore, the representation set forth in Paragraph 5 was, and is, false or misleading.

7. Through the means described in Paragraph 4, respondent has represented, expressly or by implication, that he possessed and relied upon a reasonable basis that substantiated the representation set forth in Paragraph 5, at the time the representation was made.

8. In truth and in fact, respondent did not possess and rely upon a reasonable basis that substantiated the representation set forth in Paragraph 5, at the time the representation was made. Therefore, the representation set forth in Paragraph 7 was, and is, false or misleading.

9. The acts and practices of respondent as alleged in this complaint constitute unfair or deceptive acts or practices in or affecting commerce in violation of Section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act.

THEREFORE, the Federal Trade Commission this day of ________, 1998, has issued this complaint against respondents.

By the Commission.

Donald S. Clark
Secretary

SEAL

Analysis of Proposed Consent Order to Aid Public Comment

The Federal Trade Commission has accepted an agreement, subject to final approval, to a proposed consent order from respondent Howard S. Berg.

The proposed consent order has been placed on the public record for sixty (60) days for reception of comments by interested persons. Comments received during this period will become part of the public record. After sixty (60) days, the Commission will again review the agreement and the comments received and will decide whether it should withdraw from the agreement and take other appropriate action or make final the agreement's proposed order.

This matter concerns an efficacy claim made regarding Howard Berg’s Mega Reading promoted by respondent. The Commission's complaint charges that respondent, in concert with Tru-Vantage International, L.L.C. and Kevin Trudeau, made a false and unsubstantiated claim that Howard Berg’s Mega Reading is successful in teaching anyone, including adults, children and disabled individuals, to significantly increase their reading speed while substantially comprehending and retaining the material.

The proposed consent order contains provisions designed to remedy the violations charged and to prevent the respondent from engaging in similar acts and practices in the future. The proposed order extends to any product or program purported to significantly increase one’s reading speed.

Part I of the proposed consent order prohibits the respondent from representing that Howard Berg’s Mega Reading, or any substantially similar product, is successful in teaching anyone, including adults, children and disabled individuals, to increase their reading speed above 800 words per minute while substantially comprehending and retaining the material. Part II of the proposed order prohibits the respondent from representing the performance, benefits, or efficacy of any product or program purported to significantly increase one’s reading speed, unless the representation is substantiated.

The remaining parts of the proposed consent order require the respondent to maintain promotional and substantiation materials related to the claims covered by the order, to notify the Commission of any changes in his employment, and to file one or more compliance reports.

The purpose of this analysis is to facilitate public comment on the proposed consent order. It is not intended to constitute an official interpretation of the agreement and proposed order or to modify in any way their terms.