Archived Story

Promise made…promise kept

Published 9:19am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper announced last week that California based shoe manufacturer Skechers will shell out $45 million due to allegedly misleading customers about the health benefits of its product.

Cooper and his counterparts in 44 other states along with the Federal Trade Commission allege that Skechers made health-related claims in marketing, packaging, advertising, and selling its line of rocker-bottom shoe products, including Shape-ups, Tone-ups and the Skechers Resistance Runner, that were not adequately substantiated at the time the claims were made.

“Consumers looking to lose weight or get in shape deserve accurate information about the products, not overhyped claims,” Cooper said in a press release sent to this newspaper.  “Companies must be held accountable when they make claims they can’t support.”

According to the Consent Judgment filed last week in Wake County, the states and the FTC maintain that Sketchers did not have adequate support to back up the company’s claims that its rocker-bottom shoe products caused consumers to lose weight, burn calories, improve circulation, fight cellulite, and firm, tone or strengthen leg and back muscles.

As part of the settlement, Skechers is prohibited from claiming that its shoes cause weight loss or making other health or fitness-related claims about its products without the proper trials and disclosures.

Skechers will provide up to $40 million in refunds to consumers who purchased the toning shoes.  As part of the settlement, Skechers will also pay $5 million to the states, including $124,027 to North Carolina, for consumer protection efforts. Those customers can call 1-866-325-4186 for information on how to obtain a partial refund.

After reading the press release I started wondering how many other product lines may be suspect.

While it’s well known that the FTC is a bulldog when it comes to litigation against nutritional supplement companies that bilk consumers with slick, but inaccurate, weight loss advertising claims, it also goes after the big boys.

Last year the FTC forced Reebok to cough up $25 million for falsely advertising that its EasyTone and RunTone shoes had muscle toning and strengthening benefits. The ads claimed that EasyTone shoes were “proven” to “work your hamstrings and calves up to 11 percent harder” and “tone your butt up to 28 percent more than regular sneakers…just by walking.”

As is normally the case, these products are portrayed by well-toned women, often dressed provocatively, and muscular men.

And don’t even get me started on cell phone advertising. How does a consumer weigh all those options….3G, 4G, touch screen technology, etc? From the old bag phones of the 1990’s until today, this market is constantly evolving. It’s transformed far beyond just having a small, portable, hand-held device in your hand to make a simple phone call. It appears that actually talking to people is a thing of the past; now it’s texting, Tweeting, web surfing, digital music playback, video streaming and even live TV, all in the palm of your hand.

There’s one promise this old codger will make….I’ll keep writing and by reading these words there’s no guarantee that you’ll become more physically fit, more intellectual, or can peel a potato faster without losing a finger.

 

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

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