Reebok International Ltd. is to pay $25 million in consumer refunds after the Federal Trade Commission alleged it deceived consumers into thinking its toning shoes provided extra tone and strength to leg and buttock muscles.
According to a complaint filed by the FTC, Reebok made unsupported claims in advertisements that walking in EasyTone footwear had been proven to lead to 28 percent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles, 11 percent more strength and tone in the hamstring muscles, and 11 percent more strength and tone in the calf muscles than regular walking shoes.
David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, stated: “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.”
The commission files a complaint when it has reason to believe that the law has been or is being violated and a proceeding is in the public interest. The complaint against Reebok was part of an “ongoing effort to stem overhyped advertising claims,” the commission said.
The commission added that Reebok “has agreed to resolve [the] charges” against the firm.
Reebok responded in a statement: “In order to avoid a protracted legal battle, Reebok has chosen to settle with the FTC. Settling does not mean we agreed with the FTC’s allegations; we do not.”
It added: “We stand behind our EasyTone technology — the first shoe in the toning category that was inspired by balance-ball training. We remain committed to the further development of our EasyTone line of products.”
Analysts say $25 million is not a lot of money to pay for the 2-billion-euro brand ($2.73 billion at current exchange).
But the settlement “is putting nail on coffin on something that’s already dead,” said Paul Swinand, analyst at Morningstar Inc. “The trend was already on its last legs.”
Susquehanna Financial analyst Christopher Svezia added: “Reebok and Skechers both use very similar claims and advertising tactics, which makes you think that unless Skechers can really substantiate their claims there’s a risk [that more toning product will be called into question].”
Reebok’s EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes have retailed for $80 to $100 a pair. Ads for the shoes claimed that sole technology featuring pockets of moving air creates “micro instability” that tones and strengthens muscles as you walk or run.
The $25 million will be made available for consumer refunds either directly from the FTC or through a court-approved class-action lawsuit.
For now, consumers who bought Reebok toning shoes or toning apparel can submit a claim online at Reeboksettlement.com/ftc.