Skechers settles consumer protection suit for $40 million

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Skechers USA Inc. will pay $40 million to settle a consumer protection lawsuit brought by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that the company’s claims that its toning shoes help people lose weight and strengthen butt, leg, and stomach muscles were deceptive and unfounded. The settlement, announced today, involved Skechers Shape-up, Resistance Runner, Toners and Tone-up shoes.  Consumers who purchased these shoes are eligible for refunds.

Sketchers touted its Shape-up toning shoes–retailed for around $100–as a fitness tool that promoted weight loss and toned muscles because the shoe’s curved sole caused “natural instability” requiring the consumer to “use more energy with every step.”  In ads for its Resistance Runner toning shoes, Skechers claimed that consumers who wore them could increase “muscle activation” by up to 85 percent for posture-related muscles and 71 percent for buttock muscles. “Skechers’ unfounded claims went beyond stronger and more toned muscles. The company even made claims about weight loss and cardiovascular health,” according to 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 FTC states that Skechers made false claims that clinical studies had backed up the company’s claims regarding its toning shoes. In one advertisement, Dr. Steven Gautreau, a chiropractor, stated that his endorsement of the shoes was based on an “independent” clinical study he conducted.  Dr. Gautreau is married to a Skechers marketing executive and was paid to conduct a study, which failed to produce the positive results he claimed according to the FTC.  The settlement prohibits Skechers from misrepresenting any tests, studies, or research on the toning shoes in the future.  Skechers disputes the charges and announced that it will pursue additional studies. In a press release, a Skechers spokesperson indicated that its decision to enter into the settlement was based on its desire to “avoid protracted legal proceedings.”

Today’s settlement is part of a broader agreement resolving a multi-state investigation initiated by attorneys general from Ohio and Tennessee. More than 40 states were involved in the investigation.  Under the terms of the settlement, Skechers will provide $40 million for customer refunds in the federal case and $5 million to the states.

Last year, the FTC settled similar charges against Reebok over its EasyTone walking shoes and RunTone running shoes.

Multiple reports of serious injuries resulting from the unstable design of toning shoes have been reported.  Injuries include strained, ruptured or inflamed Achilles tendons, slips and falls, broken bones especially ankles, sprains and strains, natural gait disruption and stress fractures of the feet, ankles or hips.

For more information, contact the Ohio toning shoe injury lawyers at Clark, Perdue & List.

Source: Associated Press, “FTC: Skechers deceived consumers with shoe ads,” Jennifer C. Kerr, May 16, 2012.