Reebok International has agreed to pay a $25 million fine to settle charges of false advertising stemming from claims that its toning shoes provide extra muscle strength to wearers, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The settlement funds will be used to provide consumer refunds, which will be made available either directly from the FTC or through a court-approved class action lawsuit.
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, said David Vladeck, head of the FTC’s consumer protection bureau.
The suspect Reebok advertisements claim that the toning shoes strengthen hamstrings and calves by up to 11 percent more than regular sneakers, and tone the buttocks by up to 28 percent more, according to the FTC. Reebok discontinued the ads during the middle of the FTC’s investigation.
Ads for toning shoes, which are designed to be slightly unstable, claim that the shoes strengthen muscles by requiring wearers to work harder to maintain stability in unstable shoes. Despite agreeing to pay the fine, Adidas, which owns Reebok, has stated that it disagrees with the FTC’s assessment and stands behind the claims made about its toning shoes.
Several other companies advertise toning shoes, including New Balance, Skechers, Ryka, and Avia. In fact, Skechers acknowledged in an August filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that ads for its Shape-ups and other toning shoes were under investigation by the FTC.
The Reebok advertising claims were made through print, television and Internet advertisements, beginning in early 2009, Reebok made its claims through print, television, and Internet advertisements. The claims also appeared on shoe boxes and retail store displays. The shoes touted in the advertisements include Reebok’s EasyTone and RunTone running shoes, which sold for $80 to $100, and Reebok’s EasyTone flip-flops, which retailed for about $60 a pair.
Consumers are advised to carefully evaluate advertising claims for fitness gear and exercise equipment. For more information see, the FTC’s alert How’s that Work-out Working Out? Tips on Buying Fitness Gear .
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