Posted on 29 Sep 2011
As part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over deceptive advertising, Reebok International Ltd. will refund $25 million to consumers who bought its "toning" shoes.
David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news conference that Reebok made unsubstantiated claims about its EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes. The company's advertisements said technology in the shoes' soles toned and strengthened muscles in the legs and buttocks.
According to the FTC complaint, which was filed in federal court Wednesday, Reebok falsely asserted specific numerical claims, saying, for example, that walking in EasyTone shoes had been proven to lead to 11 percent greater strength and tone in hamstring muscles than regular walking shoes.
"Marketing campaigns, no matter how clever, sexy or funny, must start and must stick with product claims that are substantiated," Vladeck said.
Reebok defended its shoes and EasyTone technology in a statement.
"Settling does not mean we agree with the FTC's allegations; we do not," said Reebok, which is owned by Adidas. "We have received overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from thousands of EasyTone customers, and we remain committed to the further development of our EasyTone line of products."
Consumers who purchased Reebok's toning shoes and apparel can go to ftc.gov/reebok to apply for refunds. The process will be overseen by a federal judge.
It is unclear whether consumers will be reimbursed for all or a portion of their purchase price. The shoes range from $80 to $100.
"We want to get cash back in the hands of consumers as quickly as we can, but this process will take some time," Vladeck said.
Vladeck praised Reebok for its cooperation in the matter, noting that it pulled the advertising in question "sometime in the middle of our investigation." The shoes became available in early 2009, and the ads ran during 2009 into 2010, according to the FTC.
Reebok has also stopped manufacturing boxes and promotional materials with the deceptive claims, Vladeck said. Under the terms of the settlement, the company is barred from making claims about the efficacy of its toning shoes on muscle strength unless backed by scientific evidence. It is also prohibited from misrepresenting tests, studies or research about toning shoes.
Vladeck declined to comment on other companies that market toning footwear, such as New Balance and Skechers. The agency did not provide an estimate of how many Reebok toning shoes were sold.