An employee adjusts a Skechers running shoe with Skechers Resistance Runner… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)
WASHINGTON -- Skechers USA Inc. has agreed to pay $40 million to settle allegations by federal officials that it misled consumers about the health benefits of its Shape-ups and other toning shoes.
Consumers who bought the shoes, which cost $60 to $100 a pair, will be able to apply for refunds as part of the settlement, the Federal Trade Commission said Wednesday. The settlement is part of a broader agreement resolving an investigation involving attorneys general from 44 states and the District of Columbia.
The agency said that Skechers, based in Manhattan Beach, deceived consumers with claims that they would lose more weight and get more muscle tone by wearing its shoes than they would with regular fitness shoes.
“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.”
One ad, which aired during the 2011 Super Bowl, featured celebrity Kim Kardashian dumping her personal trainer in favor of a pair of Shape-ups.
Another ad featured a chiropractor named Dr. Steven Gautreau recommending the shoes based on an independent clinical study he conducted comparing their benefits to those of other shoes.
The FTC said the ad mischaracterized the study and that Skechers didn't disclose Gautreau was paid to conduct it or that he was married to a company marketing executive.
Skechers began selling Shape-ups in April 2009 at $100 a pair. Other Skechers shoes covered by the settlement include Resistance Runners, Toners and Tone-ups. Consumers who bought the shoes can get information about the settlement and applying for a refund at www.ftc.gov/skechers.
Under the settlement, Skechers is barred from making claims about the benefits of its toning shoes unless they are true and backed by scientific evidence.
Wednesday's settlement follows a similar one in September in which Reebok International Ltd. agreed to pay $25 million to settle FTC allegations of misleading claims about the muscle strengthening benefits of its toning shoes.
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