October 2011

Reebok settles deceptive advertising suit, will refund $25 million to customers

Canton, MA-based Reebok International settled in September a complaint filed by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), agreeing to refund $25 million to customers who bought specialized shoes the company claimed would tone muscles. The $25 million settlement is one of the largest payouts ever for deceptive advertising claims.

In its complaint, the federal government said Reebok’s ads for the toning shoes, which feature unstable soles the company says make muscles work harder to maintain balance, often showed “very toned, scantily-clad, and sometimes nude” women who said the shoes improved muscle tone, making “your legs and butt look great.”

The settlement bars Reebok from making similar claims about its toning merchandise. FTC representatives said Reebok made specific claims in its ads about the benefits of its toning shoes—including giving percentage improvements seen in muscle tone and strength—with no credible evidence to back up the data.

The FTC is also investigating advertising claims of other footwear manufacturers, including Skechers and New Balance. In 2010, sales of toning shoes grew faster than any other part of footwear industry, rising to $1.1 billion from $350 million in 2009.

The Reebok settlement applies to toning shoes and apparel purchased on or after December 5, 2008. Customers who wish to apply for a refund can do so at www.ftc.gov/reebok.

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