Thursday, September 29, 2011

Reebok Settles FTC Claims That It Misrepresented Benefits of “Toning” Shoes

This posting was written by Jeffrey May, Editor of CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

The Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that Reebok International Ltd. agreed to resolve charges that the company deceptively advertised its “toning shoes,” including EasyTone walking shoes, RunTone running shoes, and EasyTone flip flops.

According to the FTC, ads for the shoes claimed that sole technology featuring pockets of moving air created “micro instability” that toned and strengthened muscles as you walked or ran.

In one television commercial, Reebok represented that the EasyTone toning shoes were proven to strengthen hamstrings and calves by up to 11 percent, and that they toned the buttocks “up to 28 percent more than regular sneakers, just by walking,” the FTC alleged.

Consumer Redress

As part of a settlement, Reebok has agreed to pay a $25 million judgment to be used for consumer redress distributed either through the FTC or through a class action lawsuit. Reebok also will be required to change its marketing for the relevant products, as it continues to sell the footwear.

Strengthening, Toning Claims

Reebok has agreed to refrain from making the challenged claims. A proposed consent decree would prohibit the company from representing that toning shoes and other toning apparel are effective in strengthening muscles, or that using the footwear will result in a specific percentage or amount of muscle strengthening or toning, unless the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence.

Future health or fitness-related efficacy claims for toning shoes and other toning apparel would have to be true and backed by scientific evidence. The proposed consent decree also would require Reebok to refrain from misrepresenting any tests, studies, or research results regarding toning shoes and other toning apparel.

Reebok has agreed to notify retailers and instruct them to remove marketing materials and cover portions of boxes making the challenged claims.

Reebok’s Reaction

Although Reebok agreed to settle the FTC’s allegations, it issued a statement defending its advertising practices.

“Settling does not mean we agreed with the FTC’s allegations; we do not,” Reebok said in a statement posted on the company’s web site. We fully stand behind our EasyTone technology – the first shoe in the toning category inspired by balance-ball training. We have received overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from thousands of EasyTone customers, and we remain committed to the continued development of our EasyTone line of products.”

The FTC filed the complaint and proposed consent decree on September 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. A news release, complaint, and stipulated final judgment and order appear here on the FTC website.

Further details regarding Federal Trade Commission v. Reebok International Ltd., will appear in the CCH Trade Regulation Reporter.

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