truth in advertising

Toning Shoe Claims Kicked in the Butt by Reebok's FTC Settlement

Posted by Mark J. Miller on September 29, 2011 03:09 PM

Want shoes that create extra muscle in your feet? Well, you’ll have to look somewhere else other than Reebok.

The athletic shoemaker “has agreed to pay $25 million to settle charges that it made unsupported claims that its ‘toning shoes’ provide extra muscle strength, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission said,” according to Reuters, citing the FTC announcement.

Reebok, a division of Adidas, had advertised that its EasyTone and RunTone shoes "strengthen and tone key leg and buttock (gluteus maximus) muscles more than regular shoes," Reuters reports. Just by walking around in a pair of these unstable shoes, one ad purported, you could tone your buttocks up to 28 percent more than regular sneakers. And that did not sit well with the FTC, which slapped the Adidas-owned brand with a formal complaint.

"The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science," stated David Vladeck, head of the FTC's Consumer Protection Bureau.

"To its credit, Reebok pulled these ads sometime in the middle of our investigation," Vladeck added. "We did get consumer complaints. We watch TV. We read the newspapers," said Vladeck. "There is no such thing as a no-work, no-sweat way to a fit and healthy body."

All that cash will now go toward refunding consumers, who can apply for a refund by visiting a website that states:

Payment amounts to eligible consumers will vary depending upon, among other factors, the product(s) purchased and the number and amounts claimed by all eligible consumers. The amount could be more (up to double), the same, or less than $50 for each pair of Eligible Shoes, $40 for each EasyTone Capri and EasyTone Pants, and $25 for each EasyTone Sleeveless Shirt, EasyTone Long Bra Top and EasyTone Short Sleeve Top.

Applicants will only be asked to supply proof of purchase for claims exceeding $200, which seems to leave the settlement open to abuse.

Reuters also states that the FTC may be coming for other toning shoe-makers, too:

"A variety of companies advertise toning shoes, including New Balance and Skechers. Neither company immediately immediately responded to requests for comment. The shoes range in price from $12 to nearly $300. Jaime Bianchi, an expert in consumer class-action lawsuits with the law firm White & Case, said these other manufacturers could become targets of the FTC if their advertising makes similar unsubstantiated claims. "They normally go after the biggest player and work down," said Bianchi. Private lawsuits alleging deceptive advertising have been filed against Skechers, New Balance and Reebok. Skechers said in an August filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the FTC was looking at its advertisements for its Shape-ups and other toning shoes."

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