The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced today a settlement with Reebok for $25 million in refunds to consumers who purchased Reebok toning shoes or apparel that claimed to strengthen and tone leg and butt muscles. In one example, Reebok claimed that EasyTone shoes tone the buttock muscles "up to 28 percent more than regular sneakers, just by walking," a statement for which the company had no substantiation, FTC said.
The FTC's complaint about Reebok is yet another example of the agency's continued effort to curb deceptive advertising claims—even for something as benign as shoes designed to tone your butt, said Carlotta Mast, editor-in-chief of NewHope360.com and Natural Foods Merchandiser.
Indeed, the agency is looking to become more nimble in its regulatory-review process, which could lead to an uptick in its complaints. In July, the FTC announced it would for the first time seek public comments about ways to improve the process for consumers and businesses.
Deceptive advertising in the nutrition industry
The FTC is not just focused on gluteus maximus health claims; the agency is also heavily involved in food industry advertising. In October 2010, the FTC ventured into a deceptive advertising complaint with a big case featuring POM Wonderful, maker of pomegranate juice and supplements. FTC alleged that POM's unsubstantiated claims included the prevention and treatment of heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. The case has turned into a year-long affair and has not yet been settled.
Unlike Reebok, POM is fighting back, saying its $34 million in research provides scientific proof for its claims. In both situations, the FTC went after television advertisements, and in POM's case, a TV appearance on "The Martha Stewart Show" by POM owner Lynda Resnick.
Other cases within the nutrition industry in which the FTC has taken action this year include: herbal products company Daniel Chapter One for violating an FTC Order to discontinue deceptive claims about its "cancer-fighting" supplements; fake news websites touting açaí berry weight-loss products; and Nestlé Healthcare Nutrition's deceptive claims for its children's health drink Boost Kid Essentials.