The Federal Court of Australia has ordered Reebok Australia Pty Ltd (Reebok) to pay $350,000 for making false and misleading representations about the benefits of Reebok EasyTone shoes. Reebok claimed that “if a person walked in a pair of EasyTone shoes, they would increase the strength and muscle tone of their calves, thighs and buttocks more than if they were wearing traditional walking shoes”.
These representations were plastered across shoe boxes, shoe tags, information cards and in-store promotional material. Unfortunately, for the customers who bought these shoes, the court found Reebok had no reasonable grounds for making such claims.
The Deputy Chair of The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s, Delia Rickard, was reported as saying, “where businesses claim their products have certain performance characteristics and benefits, they have a responsibility to ensure that those claims are accurate and supported by credible evidence”.
Although Reebok has imported and sold their EasyTone shoes in Australia since 2009, the proceedings brought by the ACCC were in connection with the shoes’ sale and promotion between 2011 and 2013. The fact that Reebok settled with the US Federal Trade Commission in 2011 for charges of deceptive advertising of “toning shoes” for $25 million, yet still continued with the advertising in Australia, was of particular concern to the ACCC.
Reebok is required to provide customers with a refund of $35 per pair of EasyTone they purchased from September 2011 to February 2013. The Court also ordered Reebok to implement a compliance program.