A Massachusetts district court judge has granted preliminary approval of a $28.5 million class action settlement against Reebok. See In re Reebok Easytone Litig., No. 4:10-cv-11977-FDS (D. Mass. Oct. 6, 2011) (order preliminarily approving class settlement) (available here). The settlement resolves five separate but related consumer class actions against Reebok for deceptive advertisements that suggest the company’s Easytone shoes “tone” muscles. The settlement provides for cash payments to class members as well as injunctive relief in the form of changes to Reebok’s advertising and marketing practices for its shoes and apparel.
The settlement bars Reebok from making claims that its Easytone line is effective in toning or strengthening without supporting scientific evidence. As of November 2, 2011, Reebok’s website—http://www.reebok.com/US/search?t=easytone—still advertises Easytone products. But, per the settlement, Reebok has disposed of advertisements stating that wearing the shoes will result in “28% more muscle activation in the gluteus maximus, 11% more muscle activation in the hamstrings and 11% more muscle activation in the calves” as compared to regular athletic shoes. Complaint at ¶ 27, In re Reebok Easytone Litig., No. 4:10-cv-11977-FDS (D. Mass. Filed November 16, 2010).
This settlement comes as the result of extensive negotiations involving the ten private law firms representing the named plaintiffs and attorneys from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). After the five class actions had been filed, the FTC filed an additional complaint against Reebok alleging that the dubious toning claims were violations of federal laws that prohibit “unfair or deceptive” practices and false advertising. Settlement Agreement at 7, In re Reebok Easytone Litig., No. 4:10-cv-11977-FDS (September 28, 2011) (citing 15 U.S.C. § 45(a)) (available here).
The FTC’s participation in this action underscores a trend in which the Obama Administration’s FTC and Labor Department have been markedly more aggressive in prosecuting consumer and workplace violations than previous administrations. Here, the settlement agreement recites that the cooperation of the FTC with private counsel “maximize[d] the settlement consideration . . . including the money to be paid to Class Members.” Id. For example, rather than reverting to Reebok, any unclaimed settlement proceeds are paid to the FTC. Id. at 16.
The Final Fairness Hearing is set for January 17, 2012.