Reebok's claims in its ads touting its EasyTone and RunTone line of shoes was just too good to be true for consumers and the Federal Trade Commission, which has just gotten the fitness apparel manufacturer to pay a $25 million settlement to resolve charges of deceptive advertising.
The FTC found that the claim in the ad in question, which promised consumers "better legs and a better butt with every step," was not backed by substantial proof. "Their claims didn't withstand scrutiny," said David Vladeck, director, FTC's bureau of consumer protection. "Consumers deserved a workout, not to get worked over."
Reebok's ad campaign ran from early 2009 into 2010, but it pulled the ads when the company discovered it was under investigation for unfair and deceptive ad practices.
As part of the settlement, Reebok will pay $25 million, which will go into a fund for consumer refunds. Consumers may find out how to get a refund by going to the FTC's website: www.ftc.gov/reebok. The site also contains tips from the agency on buying workout gear.
Retailers have been instructed by Reebok to take down promotional messages, and Reebok has already made packaging changes.
With the Reebok settlement, Vladeck made it clear that the FTC would not stand claims from advertisers that were not backed by scientific proof. "If you're an advertiser out there, your marketing campaign, no matter how clever, sexy, or funny, must stick with product claims that are substantiated," he said.
Reebok took issue with the FTC's case against it. "Settling does not mean we agree with the FTC's allegations; we do not. We have received overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from thousands of EasyTone customers, and we remain committed to the further development of our EastTone line of products," the company said in an emailed statement.