CHARLESTON - More than 40 state attorneys general, including West Virginia's Darrell McGraw, have reached a $45 million settlement with popular footwear brand Skechers for deceptive advertising.
In a coordinated filing, McGraw and the attorneys general of 43 states and the District of Columbia, along with the Federal Trade Commission, filed settlements Wednesday with Skechers USA for falsely claiming their rocker-bottom line of shoes would yield certain health benefits.
The lawsuit alleges that Skechers made health-related claims in the marketing and selling of its Shape-ups, Tone-ups and Resistance Runner athletic shoes that were not adequately substantiated at the time the claims were made.
Under the settlements, up to $40 million is allocated for refunds to be paid to consumers who bought the shoes.
Skechers also agreed to pay an additional $5 million to the states.
"It is unlawful for any business to make unsupported, over-hyped advertising claims to sell its products," McGraw said in a statement.
The lawsuit alleges that without having adequate support for its claims, Skechers maintained that its toning shoes caused consumers to lose weight, burn calories, improve circulation, fight cellulite and firm, tone or strengthen thigh, buttocks and back muscles.
McGraw said the company is prohibited from making these claims unless it can provide adequate studies or research to confirm them.
The California-based Skechers, which denies the allegations and believes its advertising was appropriate, said in a news release Wednesday that it decided to settle the claims to avoid prolonged legal proceedings.
"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," David Weinberg, the company's chief financial officer, said in a statement.
"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."
Skechers noted that the settlement strictly relates to certain advertising and related claims, but does not prevent or prohibit it from making and selling the toning shoes, which it says it will continue to do.
"The company fully stands behind its toning shoe products and technology, and is permitted under the settlement to continue to advertise that wearing rocker-bottom shoes like Shape-ups can lead to increased leg muscle activation, increased calorie burn, improved posture and reduced back pain," Michael Greenberg, president of Skechers, said in a statement.
"The company has received overwhelmingly enthusiastic feedback from literally thousands of customers who have tried our toning shoes for themselves and have written unsolicited testimonials about their positive experiences -- not just with our products' exercise benefits, but also with their well known comfort and style.
"We remain committed to the continued development of our toning shoe products, and will continue to deliver quality products that our customers love."
Consumers who purchased Shape-Ups, Tone-Ups or Resistance Runners can go to www.ftc.gov for information about how to obtain a partial refund.