To settle its allegations that Reebok lacks scientific proof that its “toning shoes” improve the physiques of those wearing them, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has ordered the shoe company to provide $25 million in refunds to consumers. FTC v. Reebok Int’l Ltd., No. 11-2046 (U.S. Dist. Ct., N.D. Ohio, E. Div., filed September 29, 2011). The proposed settlement, filed with the complaint, requires court approval. Reebok denied liability, but reportedly agreed to settle “to avoid a protracted legal battle.” According to the company, “We fully stand behind our EasyTone technology.” FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director David Vladeck reportedly said, “The evidence was wholly insufficient to support the objective claims [Reebok] was making.” Advertisements allegedly claim that the company’s toning shoes strengthen and tone leg and buttock muscles more than regular shoes.
Under the terms of the agreement, the company will fund an escrow account that will provide refunds to consumers who apply for them. Any remaining funds “shall be deposited to the U.S. Treasury as disgorgement.” The company must also stop making health-benefit claims unless they are “true and backed by scientific evidence.” See FTC News Release and The BLT: The Blog of LegalTimes, September 28, 2011.