Did you buy shoes from Vibram thinking that their marketing ploy of “reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles”? A lot of people did, and now Vibram is forced to pay up to $94 to any person who bought a pair dating back to March 21, 2009.
Per a Runnersworld.com report:
Valerie Bezdek brought the class action suit against Vibram in March 2012. She filed her complaint in Massachusetts, the state where Vibram’s U.S. headquarters are located. Bezdek alleged that Vibram deceived consumers by advertising that the footwear could reduce foot injuries and strengthen foot muscles, without basing those assertions on any scientific merit. “The gist of her claim is that 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,” Harvard Law School professor, John C. P. Goldberg, told Runner’s World at the time of the original filing. Subsequent class action suits were filed against Vibram in California and Illinois, and those were absorbed into Bezdek’s case.
The settlement consists of two kinds of relief. The first is refunds to class members who submit valid and completed claim forms. Vibram will deposit $3.75 million into an escrow account and those funds will be distributed to those valid class members who purchased a pair of Vibram FiveFingers between March 21, 2009 and the date of the first dissemination of summary settlement notice or class notice, whichever is earlier. FiveFingers will award up to a maximum of $94 per pair, though the agreement acknowledges that based on similar settlements it is reasonable for class members to expect to receive between $20 and $50 per pair.
Class members can submit a claim for up to two pairs of shoes without any kind of receipt or proof of purchase. (However, FiveFingers can request a verification of purchase should they decide to do so in an effort to prevent against possible fraud.) Anyone who seeks to recover payment on more than two pairs of footwear must submit both a valid claim form and proof of purchase.
This marks the second major settlement due to false advertising from a shoe company. In 2012, Skechers agreed to pay $40 million to the suckers who thought their “Shape Up” shoe would help them get a tighter butt or look like Joe Montana.
Naturally, Vibrams has refused to admit wrongdoing (other than paying out millions). More information on the settlement and terms of agreement can be found at www.fivefingerssettlement.com.
When the next wave of “greatest running shoe/form ever” comes, let’s take a step back and assess if there’s any real scientific data to back it up.
For the second part of the settlement, Vibram has agreed to discontinue to make any claims that FiveFingers footwear is effective in strengthening muscles or reducing injury in its marketing and advertising campaigns, unless the company discovers new scientific evidence that proves it.