Glomail Perfect Steps shoes: No, not perfect.

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Glomail has been flighting an infomercial on TV. 

The 10 minute infomercial opens with “Do you want to get in shape fast? Do you want to lose weight? How about burn calories, reduce cellulite and improve your circulation all at the same time? …” and promotes the respondent’s “Perfect Steps” shoes as “the new way to lose weight and get in shape fast, without ever stepping into the gym”. It also features testimonials of people losing weight by simply wearing these shoes.

Emphasis is repeatedly placed on the fact that there is no dieting, or exercise routine required, and that the shoes result in weight loss, centimetre loss (presented as “lose inches”), burning calories, improving circulation, alleviating pain in one’s knees and back, and improving posture.

These claims seem nonsensical, and as Glomail has previously abused consumers with the selling of many dubious weight loss products, a complaint was laid with the ASA against Glomail, and against the fact that they continue to promote weight-loss products that have no proof of efficacy.

Below, the ASA's ruling.

Glomail Perfect Steps / HA Steinman / 17152 

Ruling of the : ASA Directorate

In the matter between:

Dr Harris Steinman Complainant(s)/Appellant(s)

Glomail (Pty) Ltd Respondent 

21 Jun 2011

http://www.asasa.org.za/ResultDetail.aspx?Ruling=5605

Dr Steinman lodged a consumer complaint against the respondent’s advertising appearing, inter alia, on television and its website www.glomail.co.za. 

The 10 minute infomercial opens with “Do you want to get in shape fast? Do you want to lose weight? How about burn calories, reduce cellulite and improve your circulation all at the same time? …” and promotes the respondent’s “Perfect Steps” shoes as “the new way to lose weight and get in shape fast, without ever stepping into the gym”. It also features testimonials of people losing weight by simply wearing these shoes. 

Emphasis is repeatedly placed on the fact that there is no dieting, or exercise routine required, and that the shoes result in weight loss, centimetre loss (presented as “lose inches”), burning calories, improving circulation, alleviating pain in one’s knees and back, and improving posture. 

Some of the other claims specifically highlighted by the complainant include: 

• “Transforms your figure – lose weight, drop inches & burn calories!

• Curved sole stimulates all your muscles simply by walking

• Helps shape your legs, buttocks, back & even your abdomen!

• The more your muscles work, the more calories you burn

• Immediately feel the benefits – say goodbye to tedious exercises & strict diets!

• Layers within shoe completely absorbs the impact while you walk

• Alleviates pain in your knees & back

• Helps to keep your back straight for enhanced posture”. 

COMPLAINTS

In essence, the complainant submitted that these claims are bogus, and can certainly not result from simply wearing these shoes. There is no clinical study that would support such nonsense. 

The complainant also argued that the advertising uses only young, slender models, which gives the impression that the average consumer would be able to achieve such a look with these shoes. Even if there were some evidence that the shoes result in weight loss and toning, the results are not likely to be anywhere near as dramatic. 

The complainant added that the respondent has an extensive history with the ASA of making unsubstantiated weight loss claims for products that have no efficacy. In the event that the complaint is upheld, the ASA should impose sanctions on the respondent for flagrantly ignoring the Code in its marketing of this product. 

RELEVANT CLAUSE OF THE CODE OF ADVERTISING PRACTICE

In light of the complaint and the request for sanctions, the Directorate considered the following clauses as relevant: 

• Section II, Clause 4.1 – Substantiation 

• Section II, Clause 4.2.1 – Misleading claims

• Procedural Guide, Clause 14 – Sanctions 

RESPONSE

Attorneys Adams & Adams, on behalf of the respondent, argued that its product, and in effect its claims, are based on the design and research done on the principles of creating a “rocking motion” as one walks, which in turn results in all the claimed benefits. The shoe soles have a curved design and comprises of various layers which, inter alia, absorb the impact of walking. The key concept is to simulate walking barefoot in the sand, and thus effectively “forcing” the feet and legs to react more intensely, thereby stimulating more muscles. Reference was made to other brands which have similar shoes and base their claims on similar principles. 

In addition to this, the respondent submitted a copy of a ruling made by the Australian ASA in relation to a similar product, manufactured by Skechers, in which the majority of the relevant adjudicating committee were satisfied that the advertising, which claimed that Skechers’ “Shape Ups [were] designed to tone muscles, improve posture and promote weight loss”, was not misleading. 

Finally, the respondent made reference to “various clinical case studies regarding the benefits of the [Skechers] shoes and shoes with similar designs”. Examples of these studies were also annexed to the response. 

ASA DIRECTORATE RULING

The ASA Directorate considered the relevant documentation submitted by the respective parties. For the sake of convenience, the key issues will be dealt with under separate headings. 

Visuals of “slender beautiful women”

The complainant argued that the respondent’s repeated use of slender and beautiful women would create the impression with the average consumer that by using these shoes a similar appearance will be achieved. 

The respondent did not argue this issue. 

Adopting an objective view, the Directorate does not share the complainant’s perspective. It is common practice in the advertising industry to use attractive models to promote the product advertised. While perhaps true that the respondent intended for all potential customers to think “I would love to look like that”, the Directorate is not convinced that a normal, balanced, reasonable viewer would expect to look like an attractive model simply because she was used to model the product. 

This aspect of the complaint is therefore dismissed. 

Australian ASA ruling

The respondent submitted that the ruling of the Australian ASA is useful in that it accepted similar claims for the Skechers variant of this type of shoe. 

Without debating the implications and significance of the Australian ASA’s ruling, the Directorate points out that decisions made by other regulatory bodies in other countries are not binding on the ASA of South Africa, even more so when these decisions relate to a different product to the one currently at issue. 

As such, the ruling by the Australian ASA is of no significance to this ruling. 

Substantiation for the claims

Clause 4.1 of Section II stipulates that advertisers shall hold documentary evidence for any claims, whether direct or implied, that are capable of objective substantiation. There is no question that the claims at issue are capable of objective substantiation in the manner envisaged by the Code. 

In addition, this clause requires such evidence to “…emanate from or be evaluated by a person/entity, which is independent, credible, and an expert in the particular field to which the claims relate and be acceptable to the ASA”. Furthermore, such evidence is required to be up to date, and have market relevance. 

It is also trite that the ASA requires unequivocal, product-based substantiation. 

There are some glaring inadequacies in the response received: 

None of the studies relied on appear to refer to, implicate, or even mention the respondent’s product; 

Other than its say-so, the respondent has not submitted any independent verification that its product and technology is exactly the same as that used in the studies; 

The respondent supplied no information as to why the studies could be regarded as emanating from credible, experts in the field to which the claims relate. No information was supplied as to why Dr Steven Gautreau, who performed a study on ten women, and the Juntendo University and Graduate School, who performed a study on six men should be regarded as such experts, or for that matter, why these findings can be extrapolated and applied to the general population at large. Similarly, no such information or motivation was supplied for the articles written on www.onlineofferstore.com, www.footweartrading.co.za, www.courses.co.za, www.hubpages.com, www.carrieunderwoodofficial.com and www.weightlossshoes.org. 

The respondent supplied no independent and credible expert verification of the claims made on its website and in its infomercial. 

Given this, the respondent’s claims and advertising are clearly unsubstantiated and in contravention of Clause 4.1 of Section II of the Code. By virtue of this, the respondent’s advertising is likely to mislead people in a manner that contravenes Clause 4.2.1 of Section II of the Code. 

In light of this, the respondent is instructed to: 

withdraw the any and all efficacy claims as objected to by the complainant in their current format; 

ensure that the process to withdraw such claims is actioned with immediate effect on receipt of the ruling; 

ensure that the withdrawal of these claims is completed within the deadlines stipulated by Clause 15.3 of the Procedural Guide; and 

ensure that the claims at issue are not used again.

 This aspect of the complaint is upheld.

 Sanctions

The complainant argued that the respondent has had numerous incidents before the ASA and many adverse rulings on the basis of it making unsubstantiated weight loss claims for some of its products. As such, a sanction would be in order in the event of an adverse ruling.

The respondent, other than noting that the issue of sanctions has been raised, did not address this issue. 

Ordinarily, the first question that comes to mind when sanctions are requested is whether or not the respondent has a current history, or perhaps, has recently been found to contravene existing rulings. 

A preliminary search on the ASA’s electronic archives reveals that the last matter before the Directorate in which the respondent was involved was disposed of during September 2010, and happened to find in the respondent’s favour (see Glomail Blu 52 / Arch Chemicals / 16127 (13 September 2010) for context). Prior to that, the most recent matter involving the respondent appears to date back to 2009, and also found in the respondent’s favour (see Bioslim Detox Foot Patches / HA Steinman / 11073 (21 September 2009) for context). This would not suggest a recent pattern of disregard for the Code. 

However, the complainant correctly noted that the respondent has had several adverse rulings in relation to unsubstantiated weight loss claims made for its products. Given the nature of this dispute, the Directorate will only briefly mention adverse rulings in relation to weight loss claims specifically, and not those for unrelated claims. 

The ASA’s electronic archives list a number of rulings for the respondent’s Bioslim range of products, dating back to roughly 2003 (refer Bioslim / Mrs E Van Wyk (21 August 2003) for an early example). In fact, as far back as 2004, the Directorate already issued rulings that expressly explain what is required in terms of substantiation (refer Bioslim / Dr S Goldstein / 1122 (29 July 2004) for additional context). Similarly, other products have also been promoted on unsubstantiated claims (refer Trimtronic / A Lombard (4 February 2004), Carb Attack / Dr H A Steinman / 1547 (12 November 2004), Siluet 40 / Dr H A Steinman (26 April 2005), Sauna Belt / D Walters / 687 (8 July 2005), Glomail Gyntronix Duo / Dr HA Steinman / 3291 (1 December 2005), and Siluet 40 Massage Contour / Dr HA Steinman / 8103 (11 January 2007) for relevant examples. All of these examples centred around weight loss and related claims, which the respondent was unable to adequately substantiate. 

While true that the respondent has, on the odd occasion been able to submit additional substantiation for some of its claims in certain instances (refer Bioslim Once a Day / Dr HA Steinman / 1806 (21 October 2005) for one such example), such instances have been few and far between, and more often than not occurred after an initial adverse ruling. This is significant in that the Code requires adequate substantiation to be on hand prior to advertising. 

There has also been no shortage of instances where the respondent provided undertakings to withdraw advertising of this nature once a complaint questioning the veracity of the claims was received. In Bioslim Once A Day / HA Steinman / 10433 (18 February 2009) for example, a comprehensive breakdown is provided of the respondent’s pattern of adverse rulings or undertakings to withdraw complained of advertising. 

The significance of this is that, while the respondent has clearly not in recent times been before the ASA on a frequent basis, it is to a large extent an old hand, and has had ample experience with the ASA, the Code, and more to the point the requirements of Clause 4.1 of Section II. It can also not be overlooked that the same attorneys acting for the respondent in this instance have been representing the respondent for a number of years in all ASA matters. 

Given this, and given that the respondent has again failed to submit any reasonable or credible evidence for its product and the claims made, the Directorate is satisfied that the respondent’s conduct is likely to bring advertising into disrepute. As such, a sanction is warranted. 

In terms of the Procedural Guide, the Directorate is entitled to impose sanctions ranging from the withdrawal of the relevant advertising, to pre-clearance of future advertising (subject to certain conditions), to summarised rulings and adverse publicity statements being flighted at the advertiser’s expense. Given that a pre-clearance sanction for a predetermined period can only be imposed if an advertiser has had more than one adverse ruling in the past 12 months (which is not the case here), the Directorate cannot impose such a sanction. Given the nature of the deliberate contravention detailed above, the Directorate also does not believe that a once-off pre-clearance sanction would be adequate. 

As such, the Directorate imposes a sanction in terms of Clause 14.5 on the respondent. In terms of this sanction, the respondent is instructed to publish a summarised version of this ruling on television. 

However, given the respondent’s recent history of apparent compliance, the Directorate suspends this sanction for a period of six months from the date of this ruling. Should the respondent be found to make unsubstantiated efficacy claims of any nature within that period, or breach any existing ASA ruling within that period, this sanction will automatically be put into effect, along with any other sanction the Directorate might deem appropriate. 

For the sake of simpler administration, the Directorate notes that, in the event that this sanction is implemented, the summarised version of this ruling is to appear on three consecutive days during the week at the same or similar time as it was initially seen by the complainant (between 13:00 and 13:15), and on the same channel; SABC 2. The production and placement will be overseen by the ASA, and the relevant costs incurred will be paid by the respondent. 

The summarised version of the ruling should contain the following wording, to appear in clear, legible text on-screen and be read out simultaneously: 

“On 21 June 2011, the Advertising Standards Authority issued a ruling in relation to Glomail (Pty) Ltd’s infomercial and online advertising for its ‘Perfect Steps’ shoes, which claimed, among other things, to cause weight loss, burn calories, improve posture, relieve pain and result in shapely legs, buttocks and abdomen. 

The Authority ruled that Glomail supplied no independent and credible expert verification of the claims made on its website and in its infomercial and Glomail was instructed to remove the relevant unsubstantiated and misleading claims from its advertising. 

What’s more, the Authority pointed out that Glomail has had numerous complaints against it over the years, resulting in various adverse rulings against its unsubstantiated efficacy claims. The Authority was convinced that this would likely bring advertising into disrepute, and as such, imposed a sanction on Glomail, in terms of which this summarised version of the ruling had to be flighted on three consecutive week day afternoons, and the costs of doing so be borne by Glomail.

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12 Responses to Glomail Perfect Steps shoes: No, not perfect.

  1. Mandy 8 July, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    Just to make things clear, what your saying is that these shoes wont work?

  2. Harris 8 July, 2011 at 6:42 pm #

    Yes, there is no proof that these shoes will work – the company making them simply created this product with the idea that they would result in weight-loss and toning but did no tests to see if they would work.

  3. patrica 27 October, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Hi, I have Perfect Steps. When walking with them ±3kms I do not have any lower back pain as walkin with normal sneakers, no strain on my ankles or pain in my heels. I can actually feel the working of my muscles in my legs and bums. You are actually having a rolling feeling with your feet

  4. sandra 16 March, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    Hi i have arthritis and since i have worn perfect steps i dont have pain in my feet or my knees.and you can feel the muscles working in my legs. 

  5. Marilyn Nortje 16 September, 2012 at 8:19 am #

    If you believe ANY ad on tv you are an idiot! I did have 2 pairs now I cant find any more. I NEED SOME SHOES!!! Where can I buy PLEASE anyone. Glomail does ot stock anymore. I can walk further, faster with no pain in my legs, feet or back. If i wear any other shoe i am exausted after 50m. I gave one pair to my mother who stands all day. She said she never felt this good after a long day. I did not loose weight but i sure have a better stride and i feel great. My collegue said i look “springy”.

  6. caitlin 24 October, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    Since i had my perfect steps i had no problems with my legs ,back or feet.i could walk and stand whole day .a car drove over my feet and if it wasnt bfor my perfect steps i would have ended up a cripple.they saved my feet.please bring them back on the market.or please do tell me where to find my perfect shoe.i cannot live without them.

  7. passer-by 5 November, 2013 at 3:06 am #

    I see the company’s agents bringing their ads here!!!!

  8. Joyce 9 November, 2013 at 8:03 pm #

    I have a co-worker who is a cleaner who suffers from pain in both her legs, she is undergoing a treatment at the hospital for months and the DRs told her that there is no cure for her condition. So I bought her the perfect steps, the first day after wearing the shoes she gave me feedback that there is no pain anymore it has been 3 weeks now without a pain.

  9. beverley 23 January, 2014 at 6:29 am #

    I have one pair and osrry for them but it works like a bomb. Suffering with arthritis since a child due to both hips being born dislocated? I think you call it displasia or something? I have continious hips and knees dislocating. When I wear the shoes I have NO MORE PROBLEMS. Trust me when I tell you this is better than continious operations where the have to break my hip and reset it! I NEED MORE SHOES. Currently trying to see if I can import but if glomail wants to sell to me I would be an ambasedor to these shoes!!!

  10. heather 24 April, 2014 at 1:13 pm #

    I have very severe neuropathy, causing chronic pain in my feet, I have looked everywhere for shoes (all very very expensive) and still cannot find any other shoe that absorbs the impact while you walkI wear these shoes every single day, – without them i cannot walk – they cost me R99 (about 9pound) compared to Sketchers and all other brands, these ones have lasted the longest, they give me balance where i never had it and as i say – they WORK! i don’t care about weight loss but it has definately given strength back in my legs after being in a wheelchair for a year.

    • Harris 24 April, 2014 at 2:33 pm #

      @All
      As Homemark no longer sells this product, Heather may be referring to another company’s product?

      • heather 24 April, 2014 at 2:44 pm #

        I am definately referring to this product, i bought them just over a year ago in somerset mall glomail shop. in fact i have just got hold of their head office and am ordering the last few pairs left as they were discontinued.

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