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Skechers lawsuit: How to get your piece of the $40-million payout

May 17, 2012|By Rene Lynch
  • The federal government says Manhattan Beach-based Skechers made false claims regarding its line of toner shoes, including those pictured here.
The federal government says Manhattan Beach-based Skechers made false… (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles…)

Skechers has agreed to pay $40 million to consumers who purchased itsĀ  rocker-bottom shoes under the mistaken belief that the shoes would help give them Kim Kardashian's booty or Joe Montana's stamina. So how do you get your piece of the payout if you purchased the shoes months, if not years ago, and don't have a receipt?

No problem. This refund relies largely on the honor system.

Anyone who purchased the company's line of Shape-Up shoes -- or its Resistance Runners, Tone-ups or Toners -- is entitled to a partial refund whether they have proof of purchase or not, officials said Thursday.

Consumers are urged to submit a claim at www.skecherssettlement.com, fill out the online form and offer up any documentation or recollections that they might have -- details about the purchase, or perhaps a credit card receipt.

Dana Barragate, an Federal Trade Commission attorney, acknowledged in an interview with the Los Angeles Times that some dishonest people will no doubt try to game the system and apply for a partial refund for shoes they didn't buy.

"But we think most consumers are honest," Barragate said. (She noted that the process requires claimants to file and sign documents with the federal government swearing that they're telling the truth.) "We want consumers who legitimately purchased this product to get a refund if they want one."

The shoes cost roughly between $60 and $100, depending upon the style and sales outlet.

Meanwhile, Truth in Advertising, a new consumer advocacy group based in Connecticut, questioned whether the FTC settlement would serve as a deterrent. Bonnie Patten, the group's executive director, noted that Skechers was the leader in the so-called shape-up shoe market, which racked up more than $1 billion in sales in 2010.

"What does $40 million mean to them?" Patten told The Times, saying that the FTC had failed to provide "one shred of data to support the idea that this is a just or reasonable number. My guess is that [Skechers' celebrity-driven] marketing campaign cost more than that every year. Is this just the cost of doing business for them?"

But Larissa Bungo, an assistant regional director for the FTC, told The Times that "we think $40 million is a significant amount of money" and noted that it's far more than the $25 million Reebok was ordered to pay in 2011. That settlement was prompted by a similar lawsuit regarding the company's line of shape-up shoes and clothing that claimed to help tone the body.

The FTC's phone line and website were barraged Thursday with people trying to file a claim or looking up details about the settlement, and several consumers complained online at the FTC's Facebook page about an inability to file the claim. FTC authorites emphasize that consumers have several weeks to file a claim and -- as of now -- there's no end date to the claim period. (But don't wait forever. An end date will be selected some point.)

The financial payout was reached after the FTC sued the Manhattan Beach-basedSkechers USA Inc.  for making bogus claims about the shoes' ability to help consumers lose weight and shape up their posteriors.

Skechers has denied any wrongdoing. President Michael Greenberg defended the shoes and said the only reason the company settled was to avoid the legal fees of fighting the lawsuit.

And plenty of consumers swear by the shoes. "I love my shoes," said one consumer on the FTC's Facebook page, adding that they helped her feet and legs feel better.

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rene.lynch@latimes.com


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