Skechers settles false claims on toning shoes
Skechers toning shoe customers to receive refund.
Those who bought a pair of Skechers toning shoes may not get the body that the advertisements had promised, however they can get at least their money back.
The $40 million settlement is a 'trivial' amount if one considers the hundreds of millions of dollars the company has made from toning shoes over the years.
Skechers is the second maker of toning shoes that the Federal Trade Commission has ordered to reimburse customers after making false claims. Back in September, Reebok paid $25 million in customer refunds for making untrue claims about its EasyTone shoes.
"Skechers' unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles," said David Vladeck, director of the commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The F.T.C.'s message, for Skechers and other national advertisers, is to shape up your substantiation or tone down your claims."
In 2010, toning shoes were the fastest-growing products in the athletic shoe market making $1.1 billion, a huge jump from $50 million made in 2008. The sales cut in half, decreasing to $550 million last year. Skechers had 49 percent, the largest share of the market.
The company has denied making false claims, and that the settlement was a business decision to help the it avoid battles in court, as they have been fighting class-action lawsuits about the toning claims. Toning shoes have a rocker-shaped sole, which, according to those who created it, creates instability that forces one's muscles to work harder thus making them stronger.
However, in 2010, a study financed by the American Council on Exercise looked at three different types of toning shoes, including Shape-Ups. The results found that they did not increase effect on muscle activation nor calorie burn when compared with regular athletic shoes. Lawsuits against toning shoes have also been made by people who claim the shoes caused falls and different injuries.
Under the terms of the settlement, Skechers is still allowed to sell its toning shoes, and make fitness claims about them, however they cannot exaggerate the claims. According to Michael Greenberg, president of the company, Skechers is planning to continue selling its toning shoes. The company was permitted to make improved health claims if, and only if, the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence.
One Skechers advertisement, endorsed by chiropractor, Steven Guatreau, said he conducted an independent study and found that Shape-Ups were "superior" to normal athletic shoes.
"After performing a six-week clinical trial testing the benefits of Skechers Shape-Ups, I am confident in recommending them to patients to increase their low-back endurance and improve gluteal strength," he said in the ad. "Patients also benefited from weight loss and improved body composition."
However, Skechers failed to state the fact that Dr. Gautreau was married to a Skechers marketing executive, and was paid to go through with the research and that his study didn't find the results he promoted in the ad. Another ad said that the Skechers Resistance Runner could raise muscle activation by 68% in the calves, 71% in the buttocks, and 85% in the "posture-related muscles." Skechers "cherry-picked results and failed to substantiate" their claims, according to the trade commission.
The $40 million settlement is a "trivial" amount if one considers the hundreds of millions of dollars the company has made from toning shoes over the years. According to Kurt Carlson, a professor of marketing at Gergetown University's McDonough School of Business, people will continue to wear the shoes as they will forget the press in a couple months.
"Will Skechers cut promotion for this product? I highly doubt it," he said. "Will they change the tone of their claims? I doubt that, too. I expect they will lay low for a while and hope the popular press tires of this story, and then they will get on with the campaign."
© 2012, Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM.
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General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
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Keywords: toning shoes, shoes, Skechers, settlement, false claims
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