Reebok settles with FTC for $25 million over 'deceptive' ads

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Athletic apparel and footwear company Reebok agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for $25 million over charges that Reebok ran “unsubstantiated” and “deceptive” ads for its EasyTone and RunTone shoes, David Vladeck, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection, said on Sept. 28.

The FTC will dedicate the $25 million settlement to a fund that will refund consumers who purchased Reebok toning apparel or footwear. The FTC has set up a webpage for consumers with information on how to obtain a refund.

The ads cited by the FTC included claims that the EasyTone shoes could generate 28% more tone for a consumer's buttocks. Reebok began running the ads in 2009 and pulled them in 2010 “in the middle of the investigation,” Vladeck said. “Their consumers expected to get a workout, not worked over."

Reebok defended its ads in a statement posted to its corporate site, saying it chose to settle with the FTC "in order to avoid a protracted legal battle."

"Settling does not mean we agreed with the FTC's allegations; we do not," the statement said.

The settlement prohibits Reebok from making future claims about the health benefits of its toning products without “competent and reliable” scientific evidence. It also bars the company from citing scientific evidence that the FTC has found to be unsubstantiated.

Rebook has begun notifying retailers of the settlement, Vladeck said, and deployed measures to conceal the scrutinized claims, such as covering such messaging with stickers on product packaging.

Vladeck said the FTC launched its investigation after being notified of the ads via a “multiplicity of sources,” including consumer complaints.

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