June 2012

Skechers settles for $50 million but stands by advertising claims

This Skechers ad features one of the product claims called into question by the FTC.

Manhattan Beach, CA-based Skechers USA will pay $50 million to settle deceptive advertising complaints made by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 44 states, and the District of Colombia.

Skechers settled the complaints on May 16 but continues to defend its claims about the health benefits of its rocker-bottom toning shoes, reporting it agreed to the pay out only to avoid the expense and distractions of protracted litigation.

Funds will be used primarily to make partial refunds to consumers who bought shoes from the Shape-Ups, Resistance Runner, Toner, and Tone-Ups lines, which typically cost $60 to $100 a pair.

FTC officials said the charges of deceptive advertising claims, which included allegations that the company falsely represented clinical studies backing its claims, are part of the federal agency’s ongoing effort to stop overhyped advertising.

Skechers is the second company that has had to reimburse consumers for false advertising claims about toning shoes; in September 2011 Reebok settled a similar suit for $25 million.

“Skechers’ unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles. The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health,” said David Vladeck, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “The FTC’s message, for Skechers and other national advertisers, is to shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims.”

The FTC singled out several ads as particularly egregious, including one that claimed the shoes could help consumers “Get in Shape without Setting Foot in the Gym” and one that aired during the 2011 Super Bowl featuring celebrity Kim Kardashian, who was shown dumping her personal trainer in favor of a pair of Shape-Ups.

The federal agency also noted another ad came with an endorsement from chiropractor Steven Gau­treau, DC, who recommended Shape-Ups based on results of an “independent clinical study” comparing Skech­ers’ benefits with those of conventional fitness shoes. The FTC said the study results did not match those reported in the advertising and that the company also failed to disclose that Gautreau was paid for the research and is married to a Skechers marketing executive.

The settlement bars Skechers from making any unsupported claims about its shoes’ effects on strengthening, weight loss, caloric expenditure, blood circulation, aerobic conditioning, muscle tone, and muscle activation.

The FTC also called Skechers out for misrepresenting the data it does use to support its claims. An ad for its Resistance Runner shoes claimed the shoes would increase muscle activation up to 85% for posture-related muscles, 71% for one of the muscles in the buttocks, and 68% for calf muscles, compared to wearing regular running shoes. The FTC noted that Skechers  “cherry-picked results and failed to substantiate its ad claims.”

“While we vigorously deny the allegations made in these legal proceedings and looked forward to vindicating these claims in court, Skechers could not ignore the exorbitant cost and endless distraction of several years spent defending multiple lawsuits in multiple courts across the country,” said David Weinberg, the company’s chief financial officer. “This settlement will dispose once and for all of the regulatory and class action proceedings. While we believe we could have prevailed in each of these cases, to do so would have imposed an unreasonable burden on the Company regardless of the outcome.”

Consumers who purchased shoes from any of the lines named in the complaint can go to www.ftc.gov/skechers for more information and to apply for reimbursement.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.