The Federal Trade Commission announced that Skechers USA, Inc. has agreed to pay $40 million to settle charges that the company deceived consumers by making unfounded claims that Shape-ups would help people lose weight, and strengthen and tone their buttocks, legs and abdominal muscles.
“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.”
Skechers was the market leader in the toning footwear category. Industry shoe sales peaked in 2010, with sales close to $1 billion. Shape-up fitness shoes, which Skechers introduced in April 2009, cost consumers about $100 a pair. Resistance Runner, Toners, and Tone-ups became available in mid-2010, and retailed for $60 to $100 a pair.
Besides Shape-ups, Skechers also made deceptive claims about its Resistance Runner, Toners, and Tone-ups shoes, the FTC alleged. Consumers who bought these “toning” shoes will be eligible for refunds either directly from the FTC or through a court-approved class action lawsuit, and can submit a claim here. The settlement with the FTC is part of a broader agreement, also being announced today resolving a multi-state investigation, which was led by the Tennessee and Ohio Attorneys General Offices and included attorneys general from 42 other states and the District of Columbia.
The FTC complaint charges that Skechers violated federal law by making deceptive advertising claims, including falsely representing that clinical studies backed up the claims.
Under the FTC’s settlement, Skechers is barred from making any of the following claims for its toning shoes unless they are 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.
The settlement also bars Skechers from misrepresenting any tests, studies, or research results regarding toning shoes.
The settlement with the Manhattan Beach, California-based Skechers is part of the FTC’s ongoing effort to stop overhyped advertising claims, and follows a similar settlement with Reebok International Ltd. last year. The Skechers advertisements challenged by the FTC include:
- A Shape-ups ad telling consumers to “Shape Up While You Walk,” and “Get in Shape without Setting Foot in a Gym,” and claiming that the shoes are designed to promote weight loss and tone muscles. The FTC alleges that Skechers made unsupported claims that Shape-ups would provide more weight loss, and more muscle toning and strengthening than regular fitness shoes.
- Shape-ups ads with an endorsement from a chiropractor named Dr. Steven Gautreau, who recommended the product based on the results of an “independent” clinical study he conducted that tested the shoes’ benefits compared to those provided by regular fitness shoes. The FTC alleges that this study did not produce the results claimed in the ad, that Skechers failed to disclose that Dr. Gautreau is married to a Skechers marketing executive, and that Skechers paid Dr. Gautreau to conduct the study.
- Shape-ups ads featuring celebrities including Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke. Airing during the 2011 Super Bowl, the Kardashian ad showed her dumping her personal trainer for a pair of Shape-ups. The Burke ad told consumers that the newest way to burn calories and tone and strengthen muscles was to tie their Shape-ups shoe laces.
- An ad that claims consumers who wear Resistance Runner shoes will increase “muscle activation” by up to 85 percent for posture-related muscles, 71 percent for one of the muscles in the buttocks, and 68 percent for calf muscles, compared to wearing regular running shoes. The FTC alleges that in citing the study that claimed to back this up, Skechers cherry-picked results and failed to substantiate its ad claims.
Image Credit: FTC