Efforts by the FTC to curb misleading advertisements in the fitness industry lead to a $25 million settlement with Reebok.
Sounding a cautionary note to the advertising industry, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission announced yesterday that Reebok International Ltd. will pay $25 million to settle claims of misleading advertisements for its EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes.
“The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science,” said David Vladeck, director of the commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Reebok denied the allegations of misleading advertisements in a prepared statement released yesterday and explained the business decision was aimed at avoiding protracted litigation.
“We fully stand behind our EasyTone technology,” said the company statement, which described the shoes as the first in the toning category inspired by balance-ball training.
According to the trade commission complaint, Reebok distributed misleading advertisements claiming that EasyTone and RunTone shoes strengthen and tone key leg and buttock muscles more than regular shoes. The commission alleges the company falsely claimed that EasyTone footwear had been proven to lead to 28 percent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles, 11 percent more in the hamstring muscle, and 11 percent more in the calf muscles than regular walking shoes. The misleading advertisements appear in print, television, packaging, retail displays and on the Internet.
Under the settlement, Reebok is barred from quantifying toning and strengthening benefits unless the claims are true and backed by scientific evidence, said the commission. Reebok has also agreed to refrain from misrepresenting any research regarding toning shoes and other apparel. Consumers can visit the commission website to learn more about the settlement and to apply for a refund if they are eligible.
The running and walking shoes have retailed for $80 to $100 a pair, while Easy Tone flip flops have sold for about $60 a pair, the commission said, noting that “ads for the shoes have claimed that sole technology featuring pockets of moving air creates ‘micro instability’ that tones and strengthens muscles as you walk or run.”
Consumers should always exercise a healthy does of caution when buying fitness gear, said the commission. “The benefits of exercise are well-documented. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case with advertising claims for work-out gear and exercise equipment.”
To avoid falling prey to misleading advertisements, the commission offers the following tips when evaluating fitness products:
Be wary of claims that products offer a quick, easy way to lose weight and get in shape: “The truth is, there’s no such thing as a no-work, no-sweat way to a fit, healthy body.”
Avoid promises of spot reduction: “Losing weight in one problem area requires regular exercise that works the whole body.
Before-and-after photos from satisfied customers, as well as celebrity endorsements, are not proof that the product will work as claimed.
For more information visit How’s that working out? Tips on Buying Fitness Gear.