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article imageDisney to Refund Parents Who Bought 'Baby Einstein' DVDs

By Chris Dade     Oct 26, 2009 in Lifestyle
After a long campaign by the advocacy group Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), the Walt Disney Company has agreed to offer refunds to parents who bought 'Baby Einstein' DVDs during the last five years.
Founded in Alpharetta, Georgia in 1997, by Julie Aigner-Clark, the Baby Einstein company was acquired by Disney in 2001.
Disney then set about expanding the 'Baby Einstein' brand, adding books, toys, flashcards and apparel to the DVDs that had been the core product of the original company. 'Baby Mozart', 'Baby Shakespeare' and 'Baby Galileo' DVDs were also introduced.
According to KTLA News so successful has been the 'Baby Einstein' brand that in 2003 a study discovered that 33 percent of American babies aged between six months and two years had one or more 'Baby Einstein' DVDs. A startling statistic when the advice offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics is taken in to account. The Academy recommends that children aged two and younger should have no screen time whatsoever.
Come 2006 and the CCFC submitted a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission alleging that Disney was making claims regarding the educational benefits of its 'Baby Einstein' DVDs that were untrue. Disney subsequently dropped the description "educational" from its marketing.
However in 2008 lawyers for the CCFC indicated that they would file a class-action lawsuit against Disney if refunds were not offered to all those who had purchased 'Baby Einstein' DVDs since 2004.
A letter from the lawyers stated that "The Walt Disney Company's entire 'Baby Einstein' marketing regime is based on express and implied claims that their videos are educational and beneficial for early childhood development", claims the lawyers dismissed as false because it is believed that TV viewing may be harmful to young children, possibly leading to attention problems when they are older.
And now has come the announcement from Disney that they will be offering the refunds the CCFC has demanded, although the Daily Mail reports that Disney is insisting that it is simply extending a refund policy already in place. A Disney representative has described the revised refund policy as an indication that it has the "strongest possible confidence" in its 'Baby Einstein' product.
Furthermore the Guardian says that Disney has stated that it has been the victim of "propaganda groups taking extreme positions that try to dictate what parents should do, say and buy". It criticizes Susan Linn, a psychologist and the campaign director for CCFC, for turning "a simple, customer satisfaction action into a false admission of guilt".
Ms Linn has spoken of Disney's announcement regarding its refund policy, saying:We see it as an acknowledgment by the leading baby video company that baby videos are not educational, and we hope other baby media companies will follow suit by offering refunds
Dr Aric Sigman, an eminent psychologist and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in the U.K., is quoted by the Daily Mail as having said of Disney's decision to offer a refund on the 'Baby Einstein' DVDs:This is a really important, symbolic act by a multi-national company. It shows what many of us have been saying for a long time, that the virtual life cannot beat real life when it comes to language acquisition in children. There is a tremendous amount of money in convincing middle-class parents that virtual means of coaching their infants and toddlers to speak are vastly superior to Mother Nature. This action has finally put paid to that
The CCFC website confirms that the offer of a refund, which is said by the organization to be a "wonderful victory for families and anyone who cares about children", made by Disney is only available for a limited time.
KLTA News notes too that the refund offer is available for a limited time, only until March 2010 in fact. The offer permits a cash refund, an exchange of 'Baby Einstein' DVDs for other titles, or the issuing of a discount coupon.
At present the refund offer applies just in North America but campaigners in the U.K. are pressing for the offer to apply there also.
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