Reebok To Refund $25 Million To Settle Federal Charges Of Deceptive Advertising

In connection with the Federal Trade Commission’s settlement with Reebok International Ltd, a settlement administrator is mailing approximately 315,000 checks to consumers who bought allegedly deceptively advertised toning shoes and apparel from the company.

Ads for Reebok’s toning shoes claimed that sole technology featuring pockets of moving air creates “micro instability” that tones and strengthens muscles as you walk or run.

As part of its efforts to stem overhyped health claims, the FTC last year alleged that Reebok deceptively advertised its “toning shoes” by claiming that consumers wearing the shoes would strengthen and tone leg and buttock muscles more than by wearing regular shoes.  Reebok paid $25 million for refunds as part of its settlement agreement with the agency.

The amount each consumer gets back is based on the amount the consumer claimed to have spent on the products.  Consumers will receive approximately 87 percent of the amount on their claim forms that was submitted and approved.  The deadline for filing a refund request has expired.

Under the terms of the FTC settlement, the funds were made available through a court-approved class action lawsuit.  Rust Consulting, Inc., the court approved settlement administrator, will begin mailing the checks on August 8, 2012 to eligible consumers who submitted a valid claim for a refund. The checks must be cashed on or before November 6, 2012.  Consumers who have questions should call 1-888-398-5389.  The FTC never requires consumers to pay money or provide information before redress checks can be cashed.

Consumers should carefully evaluate advertising claims for work-out gear and exercise equipment.  For more information see:  How’s that Work-out Working Out?  Tips on Buying Fitness Gear.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.  Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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8 Comments on "Reebok To Refund $25 Million To Settle Federal Charges Of Deceptive Advertising"

  1. Mary Ellen Pennell | August 8, 2012 at 6:31 am |

    Hi George, I’d like to tell you about an incident involving sneakers that happened recently. My boyfriend and I went shopping for sneakers and stopped at New Balance in Avon. He bought a pair of sneakers costing 160.00. Less than a month later, his sneakers smelled horribly like cat urine. Since we no longer have cats, he accused one of the three dogs we have of urinating in his sneakers. The sneakers stunk up the house the car, everything. I tried to wash them only to find the smell was stronger. I went online to find the best way to get rid of dog urine in sneakers and came across a bunch of articles involving New Balance sneakers smelling like cat urine!! This has been an ongoing problem as far back as 2005! Apparently when these sneakers get wet, the rubber breaks down and gives us a cat urine smell. As I’m reading, I remember when my son bought New Balance sneakers years ago and he accused my cat of peeing in them. He threw the sneakers out after unsuccessfully washing them and no longer allowed the cat in his room. My boyfriend immediately called New Balance and they told him it was a known issue with these sneakers and told him to return them to the store for a new pair. They do not provide refunds. We went to the store in Avon. The store clerk was trying to tell my boyfriend how he must have submerged these sneakers in water and that if he gives my boyfriend a new pair of sneakers, he would NOT be able to return them, should the same thing happen. The only water that came in contact with these sneakers was after my boyfriend went swimming his feet were a little wet when he put his sneakers back on. I immediately reminded the store clerk that these sneakers were 160.00 not some cheap 20 dollar pair of sneakers and we did not want the same pair since he could not guarantee the issue would not happen again. I opted for the 160.00 waterproof sneakers. I think its a disgrace that New Balance does not refund peoples money with this issue, only a new pair of sneakers!!

    • I have bought two pair of US-Made new balance shoes from the New Balance site. One in late 2011 and on in May. Two separate models — 587 and 993. They are very expensive, but I care about US made products.

      The situation you described with the urine smell is exactly what happened. We’ve been dealing with customer service for months with no resolution.


  2. Mary Ellen Pennell | August 8, 2012 at 6:33 am |

    P.S. I wonder how many animals were dropped off at the shelter because their owners thought they were ruining their belongings!

  3. The “cat urine” odor you are experiencing numerous others have had the same issue with dating back to 2004. I personally have had the very same issue in the models 1122, 1123 and mostly recently the newest model that replaced the 1123, which is called the 1540. Other’s online have mentioned the 587 and 993 models and other models too. New Balance has commented to consumers who complain that “only a small batch of them being affected” which is completely false and a downright lie. The problem has been around since 2004 and I have done a lot of research on it and the problem continues to this day.

    A lot of people say “Oh throw them in the washing machine” but that is the WORST thing a person can do. New Balance is using cheap adhesive glues during production that breaks down when the shoes come into contact with water (i.e. rain water, washing, etc). The water breaks down the glue, and allows for water to actually seep inside the shoe to cause mildew which is what you are smelling.

    The “cat urine-like odor” is beyond strong, I have had pairs where the strong is so great I have had to put my shoes outside in my garage. I don’t own pets, so when my first pair of 1122 running shoes developed this issue, I thought perhaps it was just that one pair. It was replaced by another pair which did the same thing. A third and fourth pair did the same thing. I then gave up on the 1122 and went with the 1123 which was the replacement model (and as most New Balance wearers know a model shoe generally stays inline for 1.5 to 2 years before it gets changed a new model replaces it). The 1123 model had the same issue, over and over again, until I decided to wait and get the replacement model of that which is the 1540 which came out about a year ago. I was told the issue was fixed with that model since it uses less adhesives during the build-process, but the problem clearly hasn’t been fixed, it is just as bad as the other models. Now when I walk I feel like I am walking on wet sponges, clearly there is water inside the shoes, and a call (again) to New Balance is forthcoming.

    I happen to live in the Pacific Northwest where we get a lot of rain so after a few months of wearing these, they develop the odor. While I have been a dedicated New Balance customer since the early 90’s the fact that this issue has been around since 2004 (based on my research) is downright disappointing. I am really trying to keep my faith in New Balance as a company but I am losing that faith rather quickly. I will agree New Balance has some of the best customer service out there, more than willing to exchange the shoes with a new pair, but rather than continuing to do that, why don’t they simply solve the problem and fix it? Clearly it would cost the company several millions of dollars if they did a recall on all affected models made, so they simply find it cheaper for them to take care of a customer only AFTER they complain. But again how about solving the problem and making sure it never returns so a customer doesn’t have to continue to deal with it? I can only imagine how many people who own New Balance shoes who have had experienced this problem simply tossed them away thinking that the issue was just with “their” shoes, and not a widespread issue.

    If your shoes continue to produce the odor, and chances are they will, contact New Balance and get them replaced or try a different model, but since I did that and all three models had the same issue, I have been hard pressed to find a model that doesn’t have the problem. Whatever you do, don’t wash them, that only allows for water to get into the shoes making the problem worse.

    By the way Nike customers are also having the same issue as New Balance, and has for a number of years as well, so quite possibly both companies are using cheap glues from overseas more than likely. I have not heard any complaints about this with Brooks Running shoes however I have never tried their shoes, I am tempted to give a pair a try though.

  4. My Ecco Bioms stink of Cat Pee after a few rounds of golf, some in damp conditions. So much for their being waterproof!!

  5. I’ve had three pair of New Balance 990’s. They all had the same problem. Get them wet and they smell something awful.

    Putting them in the washing machine with bleach helps, but only if you let them dry completely – several days – before you put them on again. If not completely dry, the stink comes back.

    It’s still a good shoe, despite the price, but I hate the stink.

  6. Jessica Bawa | March 5, 2016 at 11:47 am |

    Just dropped $80 on Nike LeBron James shoes 3 months ago for my 7-year-old….he got them wet playing outside one day and they have reeked ever since. I washed them, and they’re even worse. Although they’re in great condition, he cannot wear them anymore due to the stink. Just threw my money away. My husband had the same problem with a pair of Merrells.

  7. Jobian Herron | December 6, 2016 at 7:02 pm |

    I am now in my second pair of Primark no name sneakers – and Walgreen’s sneaker insoles. Once both became wet , they became u wearable.

    The insoles have also taken the smell to shoes that did not have it before. Its awful.

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