ACCC tells Reebok to walk the talk on shoe claims

Four years after Reebok began claiming that wearing their EasyTone shoes would make buttocks 28% more toned and strong than wearing other walking shoes, Australia’s consumer watchdog has begun action in the Federal Court against the brand’s claims.

The fitness brand was fined $25 million by the US Federal Trade Commission in September 2011 for making the claims, but continued to make the same claims in Australia.

The FTC was careful to add that its complaint was not a finding or ruling that the fitness brand had broken the law.

Reebok claims walking in EasyTone shoes strengthens and tones buttock muscles by 28% more than other walking shoes, thighs by 11% and calves by 11%.

The ACCC alleged that “from September 2011 Reebok Australia made false, misleading or deceptive representations about EasyTone shoes”.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission alleged that using the shoes “would not result in these increases in strength and toning, and that Reebok Australia did not have reasonable grounds for making these representations.” The claims break the Australian Consumer Law, the ACCC alleged.

The ACCC also alleges that Reebok was “was aware” the claims were subject to a settlement following enforcement action from the time of the 2011 FTC complaint.

Reebok made no comment in response to the ACCC’s claims.

The shoes are still available for sale on online sellers serving Australia, the US and the UK for between about $50 and $100 a pair.

The first hearing is set for mid-February next year. The ACCC is seeking injunctions, corrective actions and pecuniary penalties.

Hall and Wilcox partner Sally Scott told SmartCompany in March that some “puffery” is allowed when promoting a product, but the risks of ACCC action is always there when a company steps over the line.

“Businesses making credence claims should consider the following questions: firstly, what is the overall impression and secondly, whether that overall impression is likely to be misleading to consumers,” she said.

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