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July 26, 2012 / Corina Valderrama

Advertisers: Shape Up or Pay Out

On May 16, 2012, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced that Skechers has agreed to pay $45 million to settle charges that the company deceived consumers by making unfounded claims that Shape-ups toning shoes would help people lose weight and strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles. The FTC will receive $40 million from the settlement while the remaining $5 million will go to the states to refund customers.

According to its complaint, the FTC alleges that Skechers violated federal law by making deceptive advertising claims, including falsely representing that clinical studies backed up the claims. The FTC enforces truth-in-advertising laws, which require advertisements to be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, substantiated by scientific evidence. The commission noted that Skechers’ advertisements went beyond claiming that the shoes would result in 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 settlement will resolve a class action lawsuit, entitled Grabowski v. Sketchers U.S.A., Inc.

As part of its settlement, Skechers is barred from misrepresenting any tests, studies, or research results regarding toning shoes as well as making any of the following claims unless true and backed by scientific evidence:

·         Claims about strengthening

·         Claims about weight loss; and

·         Claims about any other health or fitness-related benefits from toning shoes, including claims regarding caloric expenditure, calorie burn, blood circulation, aerobic conditioning, muscle tone, and muscle activation.

Skechers first introduced its Shape-up fitness shoes in April 2009 and quickly became the industry leader in toning footwear. Sales peaked in 2010 and it is estimated that “toning” shoes cost consumers up to $100 for a pair.

The commission settled similar charges with Reebok last year over RunTone running shoes for $25 million, including customer refunds.

To apply for a refund, visit http://www.skecherssettlement.com/.

If you feel that you have been the victim of false advertising, contact Khorrami, LLP for a confidential consultation.

Image courtesy of iusd.net

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