Consumers who purchased Skechers Shape-Ups, Tone-Ups or Resistance Runners between 2008 and 2011 can go to www.ftc.gov or call 866-325-4186 for more information on how to obtain a refund.CHARLESTON, W.Va. --West Virginia residents who have bought some models of Skechers shoes may be eligible for refunds after the company settled with state Attorney General Darrell McGraw's office and more than 40 other states over allegedly deceptive claims about the shoes' health benefits.
Skechers USA Inc. said Shape-ups and similar footwear could help people lose weight with their "rocker-bottom" design by toning muscles, fighting cellulite and improving circulation.
West Virginia joined the Federal Trade Commission and states across the country to fight what it believed to be unfounded claims by the company. The lawsuit was settled Wednesday for $40 million.
"It is unlawful for any business to make unsupported, over-hyped advertising claims to sell its products," McGraw said in a statement. "With today's action, our office continues its vigilance in protecting consumers against companies that attempt to trick or defraud them."
In addition to the $40 million for customer refunds, Skechers also will pay $5 million to compensate for state court costs and fees. That includes $80,000 to cover West Virginia's attorneys' fees in the case, said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Stonestreet.
"Anytime a business makes really hyperbolic claims about their products, it gets the attention of attorney generals across the nation, which is what happened here. The fact of the matter is, Skechers couldn't substantiate with scientific evidence its very specific claims of the effect the toning shoes actually had on consumers," Stonestreet said.
"We want to get involved anytime our citizens have been victims of misrepresentation and want to make sure that if they were, they're taken care of."
In the case, McGraw's office claimed Skechers violated the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, which prohibits practices affecting the conduct of trade or commerce within the state.
Skechers denied the allegations and "continues to stand behind its toning technology," according to a news release posted on its website Wednesday.
"While we vigorously deny the allegations made in these legal proceedings and looked forward to vindicating these claims in court, Skechers could not ignore the exorbitant cost and endless distraction of several years spent defending multiple lawsuits in multiple courts across the country," said Chief Financial Officer David Weinberg. "While we believe we could have prevailed in each of these cases, to do so would have imposed an unreasonable burden on the company regardless of the outcome."
The shoes, which are designed to be unstable when worn and feature a curved sole to simulate a running motion, were launched in 2008 and typically cost about $120.
While the product was offered to both men and women, advertisements targeted fitness-conscious women, featuring celebrity spokespeople such as Kim Kardashian and Brooke Burke.
The lawsuit also includes similar products Tone-ups and Resistance Runners.
Marketing ads claimed the shoes could not only burn calories and tone muscles by simply walking, but could ultimately reduce stress and improve sleep.
"There was suspicion from the beginning that a lot of those claims couldn't be validated. We worked with Skechers to reach a settlement that would take care of everyone who purchased shoes thinking they would dramatically increase toning and overall fitness," Stonestreet said. "Because we participated in this settlement, everyone in our state who purchased these shoes are entitled to a refund facilitated through the FTC."Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.