Saturday, October 24th, 2009
Refunds: Baby Einstein DVDs
Ta-dah! The whole educational video claim has come to roost. Baby Einstein, aka Walt Disney Company, is offering refunds on Baby Einstein DVDs purchased between June 5, 2004 and September 4, 2009. They’re not defective. They’re just not educational, and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you have no business showing them to a child under age 2.
Don’t be confused by Baby Einstein’s refund page titled “DVD Upgrade / Moneyback Guarantee.” Read past the counter-offers for a book, CD or coupon and you’ll see the full-refund offer of $15.99 per DVD.
Read the nitty-gritty details at the New York Times. In short:
The videos — simple productions featuring music, puppets, bright colors, and not many words — became a staple of baby life: According to a 2003 study, a third of all American babies from 6 months to 2 years old had at least one “Baby Einstein” video.
Despite their ubiquity, and the fact that many babies are transfixed by the videos, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time at all for children under 2.
In 2006, Ms. Linn’s group [Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood] went to the Federal Trade Commission to complain about the educational claims made by Disney and another company, Brainy Baby. As a result, the companies dropped the word ‘educational’ from their marketing. But the group didn’t think that was enough.
‘Disney was never held accountable, and parents were never given any compensation. So we shared our information and research with a team of public health lawyers,’ Ms. Linn said.
Last year, lawyers threatened a class-action lawsuit for unfair and deceptive practices unless Disney agreed to refund the full purchase price to all who bought the videos since 2004.
Now, I’m not sure that parents need “compensation.” How do you compensate for wasted educational time, or worse, slowing your child’s development? (According to research, children who watch baby videos have smaller vocabularies).
But, the American justice system is a strange one. In some countries, corporations can actually be dissolved by the government. In America, corporations almost run the government, having a heavy, heavy hand influencing politicians and our laws.
The court system is one of the few ways to, in some small measure, balance out the power equation. In other words, you, John and Jane Q. Nobody, should love the courts because if you ever get wronged, it’s the little recourse for justice you’ll ever have.
And so when companies throw around claims about offering educational products, and those products ultimately can have the opposite effect, hey, hold the companies accountable in whatever manner possible.
I doubt this move will hurt Disney much. Not that many parents will be aware of the refund, nor have much interest. Baby Einstein could sell a DVD labeled “One hour of Babysitting” and it would become a best seller.