Consumers who purchased Skechers “toning” shoes after hearing the claims they would lose weight and add muscle tone will be eligible for refunds under a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
For millions of Skechers customers, “the only thing that got a work-out was their wallet,” says David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Consumer Protection Bureau.
Skechers advertised that its toning shoes would help people lose weight, build muscle and get in shape, without setting foot in a gym, claims that now will cost the company $40 million in a settlement with U.S. regulators.
The FTC said that the company has agreed to the settlement on charges that it “deceived” consumers by making unfounded claims “about its Shape-ups, Resistance Runner, Toners and Tone-ups lines of shoes. Consumers who bought the shoes are entitled to refunds.
“Skechers’ unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles. The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health,” Vladeck said in a statement. “The FTC’s message for Skechers and other national advertisers is to shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims.”
Another unfounded claim made by Skechers was that their Resistance Runners would raise “muscle activation” up to 85 percent for some posture-related muscles, and 71 percent for one buttocks muscle.
The FTC also alleges that Skechers manipulated and “cherry-picked results” from studies to support their claims. In one case, the FTC says Skechers touted the endorsement of chiropractor Dr. Steven Gautreau, but did not disclose that Gautreau was married to a Skechers marketing executive and that Skechers paid him to conduct the study, which the FTC alleges did not support the claims in the ad. Dr. Gautreau recommended Shape-ups based on a clinical study he claimed was “independent” and tested the shoes’ benefits compared with regular fitness shoes, the FTC says. The study did not produce the results claimed in the ad, the commission stated.
The FTC expects the settlement to be the largest ever in terms of the amount of money refunded to customers.
Kim Kardashian may have been Skechers celebrity pitchwoman for Super Bowl commericals, the FTC says, but there was no substantiation to claims its’ toning sneakers would make buyers “bottom half their better half!”
Reebok settled similar FTC charges for $25 million last fall for charges it misled consumers with false claims about Easy Tone walking shoes and Run Tone running shoes. The reason Skecher’s settlement was larger, Vladeck says, in part is because of its larger share of the toning sneaker market.
Under the settlement, Skechers will be barred from making unsubstantiated claims about the health and fitness benefits of Shape-ups and related footwear, unless they are backed by scientific evidence.
“Hopefully, at least here stateside, this will make big companies think twice before they make these specious advertising claims,” Chris Morran, deputy editor at Consumerist.com, told ABC News. “The hurt isn’t the $40 million penalty, it’s the millions Skechers won’t be making selling toning shoes…The sneakers are going overnight from miracle weight loss, muscle toning shoes to sneakers and that’s the bigger hurt.”
Consumers, alleging that Shape-ups can cause serious injuries, including stress fractures, have also sued Skechers.
Consumers can learn more about the settlement and file for a refund at www.ftc.gov/Skechers if you purchased the shoes from August 1, 2008 until August 13, 2012 in the U.S.
For more information, contact a Gacovino Lake attorney at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).