The Federal Trade Commission has ordered Reebok International to pay $25 million in consumer refunds for claiming its "toning shoes" would give wearers stronger butts and better legs.
According to the FTC, the athletic shoemaker lacked scientific proof to back up claims it made about its EasyTone and RunTone shoes (which sell for about $80 to $100 a pair), such as walking in the shoes will lead to 28% more strength and tone in the buttock muscles than regular sneakers.
“Consumers expected to get a workout, not worked over,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, at a press conference today. “The evidence was wholly insufficient to support the objective claims [Reebok] was making.”
The FTC today filed both a lawsuit and proposed settlement in Ohio federal court, claiming that Reebok’s advertising was false and deceptive in violation of sections 5 and 12 of the FTC Act.
The settlement, which is subject to court approval, requires Reebok to deposit $25 million into an escrow account within 15 days. Consumers can apply for refunds, and any money that remains goes to the U.S. Treasury as disgorgement. Reebok must also cease making claims about the health benefits of its shoes unless they’re backed up by at least one well-controlled human clinical study.
Reebok in a statement said it settled “in order to avoid a protracted legal battle....Settling does not mean we agreed with the FTC’s allegations; we do not. We fully stand behind our EasyTone technology.”
The overall market for toning shoes - described as the newest trend in footwear - was close to $1 billion in 2010, according to the complaint. Vladeck declined to say if other manufacturers are under investigation for making false claims about their shoes.
Reebok was represented by its associate general counsels Sarah Stuart and Keith Wexelblatt and outside counsel Douglas Wood, John Hooper and Keri Bruce of Reed Smith.
FTC lawyers who worked on the case include Dana Barragate, Larissa Bungo and Michael Milgrom, who are based in the agency’s Cleveland office.