FTC to Skechers: Shape up your ad claims

It’s usually Skechers promising to help people shape up. But this time, the shoe’s on the other foot.  In a $40 million settlement announced by the FTC — part of a broader agreement that also resolves charges by state AGs — the agency is telling Skechers to shape up its claims for Shape-ups and other Skechers shoes.

According to the FTC, through ads featuring celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke, Skechers made numerous false and deceptive claims about the weight loss and muscle strengthening benefits people would get from the company’s toning shoes, compared to regular fitness footwear.  One campaign featured Kardashian “breaking up” with her trainer, thanks to the benefits of wearing Skechers.  Actress Burke claimed, “The newest move in fitness is tying your shoelaces. Because once my Skechers Shape-ups are on snug and comfy, I’m toning my muscles, strengthening my core, burning calories.  Why? Because Shape-ups really work.  No matter what I do, or what they do [camera pans to children].  Skechers Shape-ups.  Step into your new body.”

The FTC also challenged what it said was a deceptive endorsement by California chiropractor, Dr. Steven Gautreau.  Ads for Shape-ups featured a glowing endorsement by Dr. Gautreau without disclosing that he’s married to a marketing executive at Skechers and that Skechers paid him to conduct the study.

Regardless of what you sell, if your company makes objective product claims, you’ll want to find out more about the case. The complaint offers a detailed evaluation of where the FTC says Skechers went wrong. According to the complaint, Skechers’ ads said that the company had a clinical study to back up certain weight loss and fat reduction benefits — but that claim was false due to what the FTC alleges were serious flaws in how the research was done. One study didn’t use a control. Another included data that was altered and incomplete.

According to the complaint, some participants wearing Shape-ups actually gained weight or increased their body fat percentage, but were falsely reported as having lost weight or reduced body fat.  Furthermore, two subjects who were in the control group and lost weight had their data falsely attributed to the Shape-ups group. What’s more, the FTC says data was missing or not collected for some of the study’s participants.  The complaint notes that among the people in the study were the wives of two of the study’s co-authors, the parents of a co-author, employees of Dr. Gautreau, and other people personally associated with him.

The FTC also alleges that the company — through ad claims and through the name “Shape-ups” — conveyed to consumers that walking in the shoes would result in more weight loss and body fat reduction than standard fitness shoes. According to the complaint, that claim was unsubstantiated.  The FTC also charged that Skechers didn’t have sound science to back up similar claims the company made for its Resistance Runners, Shape-ups Toners, and Tone-ups.

If you’ve been following the FTC’s long-standing concern about deceptive endorsements, the complaint count related to Dr. Gautreau’s endorsement should be of particular interest.  According to the FTC, Skechers represented that Dr. Gautreau endorsed Shape-ups based upon his “independent, objective study of the product.” But the complaint alleged that Skechers failed to disclose — or failed to adequately disclose — that the company had paid him to conduct the study and that he’s married to a Skechers marketing executive.  In light of the representations made, the FTC says consumers would have found that information material.  Thus, the FTC alleges that Skechers’ failure to disclose those facts was a deceptive practice, in violation of Section 5.

In addition to complying with tough injunctive provisions for future Skechers ad claims, the company will turn over $40 million for a refund program for people who bought the shoes. Visit ftc.gov/skechers for more information.

FTC staff will talk about the settlement online at 2:00 ET on May 16th.  Follow the @FTC on Twitter and ask questions using the hashtag #FTCbcp or post them on the FTC's Facebook page.

Next:  Evaluating the fitness of your own ad claims

 

47 Comments

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Thank you for your sharing this blog and artcle.Its very usefull for me,thanks

If you're looking for more information about refunds in the Skechers case, here's some news from the FTC.

If you applied for a refund as part of the Skechers case, the latest word is that the administrators are still going through the applications. As you can imagine, we received a ton of requests and it takes time to go through each one page by page.

But as soon as checks are mailed out -- we hope that will happen later this summer -- we'll post an announcement at www.ftc.gov.

Thank you for your patience.

i bought a pair of your shape up tennis shoes and filed a complaint in 2012 when you was giving a partial refund.i never received a refund nor a reply.i stopped wearing the shoes ,but still have them.i purchased them at macy's.

we have 4 pair and no help for any of us.wha do we do for the complaint?

I filed my suit, have 2 pair of shape ups, on June 2, 2012. Can get no info on what is going on with claims. On May 16th there is supposed to be comment by FTC on twitter and facebook. I am not on either one. How can I find out what is going on? Will someone post what FTC states for me?

I filed back in May 2012 but I'm wondering how I verify that you do indeed have my claim.

Just was wondering if we need to go back and refile if it has been a long time since I originally filed online. I hope something happens soon and we are not forgotten.

i have 3 pairs of these skechers shape ups 2 are brand new 1 i wore for a year i can hardly walk anymore i can not wear them what do i do with these shoes

I applied during the first days of the settlement- online. I have not heard anything from anyone concerning the settlement. Can someone please let me know how the refunds are being processed. The site www.ftc.gov/sketchers is not functional. Thank You.
.

Don, have you tried the link without the "T" -- www.ftc.gov/skechers

As you can imagine, a lot of people filed applications for refunds. The process of going through them all is still underway. Sorry for how long it takes, but I'm sure you appreciate why it's important to get it done properly.

Thank you for your patience.

HI I filed a claim when I first found out but now I'm moving where can I change my address for my check to be mailed?

hi. i applied during the first days of the settlement- online. I have not been able to login, as I am having problems as well. Also, i have not heard anything from anyone concerning the settlement. Can someone please let me know what is going on? thanks.

I filed a claim for the skechers shape up refund in august 2011, how long does it take to receive it?

Sorry, Jean, but we'd appreciate your patience for a just a bit longer. How it works is this. There's a set amount of money for refunds. Therefore, the amount each buyer gets will depend on the total number of refund requests. The process of going through each request is still ongoing. Once that's completed, checks will go out.

Just for comparison's sake, some months before the FTC announced the Skechers settlement it reached a $25 million settlement with Reebok for similar claims for its shoes. Most people who applied for Reebok refunds have received those checks, so there's progress being made.

Thanks again for your patience. We understand that people are eager to get their refunds.

filed for sketchers refund in June. still no refund. tried to access "check status of refund" on sketchers file claim page, but it won't let me log in. requested new password through "forgot password" link about a week and a half ago, still no e mail with new password. any info would be greatly appreciated.

i haven't been able to wear the shoes i stand uo all day and they killed my feet,i think they knew their sales pitch was a little far out there dianne fountain paid 120.00 + taxes for these the most i ever paid on shoes and it was a lie.

I have worn my shoe about 4 times to work. Since 2009 and every time I wear it the center of my foot was in pain finally on the last occasion I have to take it off and buy another pair.

I submitted a claim for 3 pairs that I bought, tennies, Mary Jane's and boots. I seriously thought they were suppose to work out your back half. I paid a lot of money for them because of this. When do we get a refund?!

The process of going through the refund requests is still underway, Jen. Thanks for your patience.

I want to know how do I get a refund for these sneekers?

You can find more information here, Colleen: www.ftc.gov/skechers

I bought the snekers and I kept fallign down with them I injured my knee and had to see a doctor.

I never believed skechers shapeups could shape me up better than any other sneaker. I tried them on and they were comfy, so i bought them.So do I really deserve money back? I think only if you really believed the sales pitch should you file for money.

I totally appreciate your honesty! SO rare.

I bought shape ups and they are splitting they were expensive how do i get refund

You can find more info at www.ftc.gov/skechers.

i thought my shape-ups were wonderful but I know.have problems with the heel of my right foot possibly stress.fracture and other foot problems since using them during aerobics since I got two pair for.christmas

I had 2 pairs of these shoes the second pair split out on the side after only one month of owning them

everybody... do you just want money back or are you really dissatisfied?

Exactly!!! Let's be true to ourselves and have a little integrity people! It goes a long way. If anything, they're so comfy or you would have brought them back long ago. Just sayin... :)

I paid over $40.00 for shoes. Do you need proof of purchase to file. Cannot fine receipt.

That probably won't be as problem, GDC. Visit www.ftc.gov/skechers and follow the links there to the online claim form. The actual amount of refunds will depend on the number of buyers who apply.

I did like my first sketcher just because it did help me stand tall and took off pressure off my back which reduced the back pain. But Toning of muscles? I don't think, it did any toning of any muscles at all. I used them religiously at work but I still have same shape. I could feel the cushions had flattened so bought another pair. Second pair did nothing at all not even help with back pain. I am thinking to get my money back

I agree. this helped me too. I am still wearing my Sketchers and will continue to. Thanks

what type of proof is needed to approve a claim?

I bought 3 pairs of Shape Ups and are dissatisfied with them. I have worn all 3 pairs (white; black; and black/white). I tried to return them to the store with my receipts yesterday (6/28/12) but they gave me your website and said I should follow the instructions.

Most people won't need proof of purchase, Dave. But if you still have it, you'll want to hold on to it, of course. Visit www.ftc.gov/skechers and follow the links for the online claim process.

May 20, I have a pir and want to know where do I put in my claim?
I went back to the stor where I bout my sketcher from and they gave ma a paper to claim www.ftc.gov/sketchers or call 1 866-325-4186
there is no claim form at that site.

Could you try again at www.ftc.gov/skechers (no "t" in the product name)? I hope that works for you. Thanks.

I paid over $100 for my Sketcher Shape Ups last year and all they are doing is sitting in my locker. Refund or coupon for a different pair?

How do I file a claim? I want my money back from China made sneakers that I paid $100+ for these shoes, I want at lease $40 back.

Please visit www.ftc.gov/skechers . You can file online.

I have a pair how do I put my claim in

I want to know how to get my refund I bought 3 pair of sketchers I would like to have a refund please.

You can find out more at www.ftc.gov/skechers .

This is obviously a profitable scam carefully set up to dupe consumers. This is a groundbreaking action Bly FTC in defense or consumers.

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