Remember that scene in “The Jerk” where Navin Johnson is writing thousands upon thousands of checks in connection with his failed “Optigrab” invention? Now think Reebok — although in this case, the issue is a failure of advertising rather than invention.
According to the FTC, “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.”
The FTC took issue with that, calling it an over-hyped health claim, and came to a settlement with Reebok that calls for a $25M payment for consumer restitution.
The FCC says the average recipient of a check will get about 87% of what they claimed to have spent on the shoes. In all, somewhere in the neighborhood of 315K checks are being mailed out. That works out to about $80 per check.
The moral of the story, of course, is to be very careful about your product claims when engaged in the act of marketing.