Vibram to refund customers $3.75M for false claims
Vibram's interesting looking FiveFinger shoes might not be as health savvy as the company has claimed and its costing them a whopping $3.75 million.
The shoe company recently settled a class action lawsuit after making misleading claims about their footwear.
Valeri Bezdek filed a lawsuit against Vibram in March 2012. Runner's World summed up her complaint, saying, "Vibram illegally obtained an economic windfall from her because it was only by making false health claims that Vibram induced consumers to buy FiveFingers shoes, and to pay more for them than they would have otherwise.
You might remember a few years ago, buying shoes that looked like gloves for your feet was a health craze.
From "The Doctors": "We're wearing the Vibram five-finger shoes right now because believe it or not new research from Harvard says may be better for your foot than traditional running shoes."
From Vibram: "I feel less wear and tear in my joints. My arches and my feet have actually strengthened.My knees, hips and back are healthier than ever."
The success of these shoes was in the midst of the what The Washington Post calls the "minimalists boom."
Major shoe companies like Nike and Brooks jumped on the bandwagon also making barely-there footwear. A Washington Post writer says, "such footwear made up 10 percent of the $588 million U.S. running shoe market and had grown by 303 percent between November 2010 and November 2012, compared with 19 percent for running shoe sales overall."
But despite massive popularity and presumed health benefits, Medical Daily reports that a
study from 2013 clearly spells out the shoes can lead to more cases of foot bone marrow edema than traditional shoes.
The class action suit was settled just this past week and will hit Vibram in the pockets two different ways.
First, the company will have to use that $3.75 million figure to refund runners who bought the shoes after March 21, 2009. Ars Technica reports customers could receive anywhere from $20 to $50.
Secondly, Vibram will have discontinue claims that their footwear strengthens muscle (until they prove it); the company has to to advertise about the settlement, deliver around 300 million impressions of the ads and make all the information available on Facebook and its website www.fivefingerssettlement.com.
This isn't the first time a shoe company has had to pay-up for false advertisement.
NBC reports this is similar to when the FTC sued Sketchers for $40 million in 2012 over their "Shape Up" shoes. They found the shoes did not help consumers get toned up, lose weight or improve posture - as the shoe company claimed.
NBC points out the Reebok also got caught that same year making misleading claims when promoting its EasyTone shoes that were supposed to improve muscle tone. They refunded $25 million dollars to customers.
Although the company settled the lawsuit, USA Today reports Vibram still claims they didn't mislead consumers.
"Vibram expressly denied and continues to deny any wrongdoing alleged in the Actions, and neither admits nor concedes any actual or potential fault, wrongdoing or liability."
CNBC reports, Vibram will allow previous show buyers to file their claims on their settlement website starting Wednesday, May 14.