Sep 30, 2011
On September 28, 2011, the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection announced that Reebok International Ltd., the manufacturer of athletic footwear and apparel, entered into a $25 million stipulated judgment and Order regarding allegations that it violated the FTC Act by making false and unsubstantiated claims for its fitness toning athletic shoes. According to the FTC’s Complaint in the case, Reebok had made unsupported advertising claims that its toning shoes would provide extra toning and strength to leg and buttock muscles by increasing the effect of a regular exercise routine. The Complaint further alleges that the advertising made quantified claims of health benefits, such as that the shoes had been proven through research to lead to a 28% better workout for the buttocks, and 11% better workout for calves compared to regular walking shoes.
The FTC’s Order requires Reebok to pay $25 million into a fund for consumer redress, which will be administered either directly by the FTC or through a court-approved settlement of class action litigation against Reebok, which is currently pending. In addition to the monetary penalty, the Order prohibits Reebok from making advertising claims regarding health, fitness or muscle building that are specifically quantified unless it has competent and reliable scientific evidence, which is specifically defined in the Order to mean well-controlled, blinded human clinical trials of at least six weeks in duration. The Order also includes standard general requirements regarding claims substantiation for other general health and fitness claims.
The FTC’s Order reflects what has been an increasing trend in FTC enforcement actions in a number of key respects:
In response to the Order, Reebok issued the following press statement: “In order to avoid a protracted legal battle, Reebok has chosen to settle with the FTC. Settling does not mean we agreed with the FTC’s allegations; we do not.”
To read the FTC's Complaint, click here.
To read the FTC's Order, click here.
Why it matters: The Reebok action demonstrates the FTC’s increasingly aggressive posture with regard to its enforcement actions. This Order sends yet another strong message to marketers that quantified health and fitness claims must be supported by empirical clinical evidence, and that failure to properly substantiate these claims can result in significant monetary exposure.
Linda A. GoldsteinPartner
Jeffrey S. EdelsteinPartner
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