Who knew that claims about toned buttocks could lead to such costly litigation? Though the shoe company Skechers likely didn’t know what they were in for when they launched their line of Shape-ups sneakers, they have now learned a pricey lesson in just how expensive exaggerated butt-toning claims can be when they are not backed up by the facts.
Just last week Skechers and the Federal Trade Commission announced that the company would be mailing out refund checks to 509,175 consumers who purchased the Shape-ups. The refund checks are part of a $40 million settlement agreement Skechers reached with the government over claims that the company engaged in deceptive advertising practices related to the marketing of the shoes. Specifically, Skechers found itself in hot water for making unfounded claims that its Shape-ups shoes would miraculously help people lose weight, strengthen legs and abs and even provide a more shapely posterior. To aid with its farfetched pitch, Skechers recruited celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and “Dancing with the Stars” veteran Brooke Burke to act as shills. The ads appeared in newspapers, on billboards and even during Super Bowls, with the celebs claiming that they were able to achieve their shapely figures thanks to the calorie-burning wonders of their Shape-ups.
Beyond the now-settled problems Skechers has encountered over deceptive advertising techniques, Skechers continues to defend itself against hundreds of claims by consumers who say they suffered physical harm from wearing the Shape-ups. A series of lawsuits claim that wearers developed stress fractures in their hips, knees and ankles and that the shoes were to blame. The consumers point to the distinctive round sole of the shoes as the culprit. Skechers claims the weird shape is what helps get customers in shape, other say it is responsible for their severe pain. Critics say the shoes lead to changes in the way people walk, something Skechers itself admits. A promotional video claims that wearers learn to step forward in a new way, with their heels hitting the ground first and then rolling forward onto the balls of their feet. Plaintiffs claim this can cause new and damaging strain to muscles and joints. In other cases, customers have sued alleging the unstable design of the shoes caused them to fall, breaking arms and legs in the process.
Though you might not think butt-shaping shoes would present a common problem to other companies, you’d be wrong. Another major shoe manufacturer, Reebok, agreed more than a year ago to pay the FTC $25 million to settle similarly deceptive advertising claims about its rear-shaping shoes known as “EasyTone.”
Those who are waiting on their checks need to be sure to act relatively quickly. The FTC says the checks must be cashed by October 10, 2013 or consumers risk losing out. Surprisingly, Skechers has continued selling its line of Shape-ups and Tone-ups shoes despite the costly litigation. If you look closely, however, you will quickly note that the company has pulled all mention of any potential butt-toning attributes.