THE WAR: Reebok v. FTC
Reebok made unsupported claims in advertisements that walking in its EasyTone shoes and running in its RunTone running shoes strengthen and tone key leg and buttock (gluteus maximus) muscles more than regular shoes. The FTC’s complaint also alleges that Reebok falsely claimed that walking in EasyTone footwear had been proven to lead to 28 percent more strength and tone in the buttock muscles, 11 percent more strength and tone in the hamstring muscles, and 11 percent more strength and tone in the calf muscles than regular walking shoes.
Reebok said it had substantiated its claims through a 2008 study commissioned by Reebok. The study examined five people walking on a treadmill for 5 minutes in Reeboks, regular shoes, and no shoes. National Advertising Division said this was not representative. And that the standard for tests is to be “representative of the universe of consumers to whom this product is making broad performance claims is targeted … reflecting real world conditions.
The FTC. Under a settlement, Reebok agreed to pay $25 million in damages which will be used for customer refunds.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
Even big companies must substantiate their claims.
Evidence must come from a controlled clinical study under acceptable designs and protocols that is peer reviewed. Competent and reliable scientific evidence means tests, analyses, research, or studies that have been conducted and evaluated in an objective manner by qualified persons and are generally accepted in the profession to yield accurate and reliable results.