Crocs Fined for Health Claims

The Environmental Protection Agency says they have settled with the manufacturer of Crocs over a case of unproven health claims.

Crocs Inc. has agreed to remove unsubstantiated antimicrobial claims on product packaging and pay $230,000 to resolve cases involving several types of its shoes, according to the U.S. EPA.

“EPA will take action to protect the public against companies making unverified public health claims,” said Jim Martin, EPA’s regional administrator in Denver. “Unless these products are registered with EPA, consumers have little or no information about whether such claims are accurate.”

So, we now officially can declare Crocs are a croc?

One of the interesting details in this story is that the US Government says products with antimicrobial claims must register and be tested as a pesticide. I never thought of it like that, but wearing an untested pesticide as a shoe sounds unwise. The marketing on the Crocs page now has to change. It used to say something like this:

…ergonomic, antimicrobial, odor resistant and recyclable shoes

I guess it was easier to remove the second claim than get tested for compliance with pesticide regulations.

It might take a while longer to retrain the doctors and experts in the field and remove their authoritative references like this one on WebMD.

“Crocs shoes do provide protection, compared to going barefoot, or wearing flip-flops or sandals,” says Donna M. Alfieri, DPM, associate professor at the N.Y. College of Podiatric Medicine. “They offer some arch support and cushion, the holes in the shoe allow air in and keep the feet from sweating, and the antimicrobial properties of Crocs could help prevent infections in kids’ feet.”

It also could be false advertising. Whoops.

This story reminds me of a marketing director of a successful Silicon Valley technical firm who asked me one day to define availability. I said something like this:

It is measured by the up time and service level. The concept of five nines, for example, is a service that is unavailable to users less than 5.26 minutes in a year.

He cut me off before I could continue, threw his head back and grew a giant smile like the Cheshire Cat.

Nooooo, availability is two power-supplies! That is what the xyz competitor said on their marketing brief, so that is what I put on ours! Easy!

I read the marketing brief he cited. It was clear he mis-understood their text as he copied it but I could tell he was making a political point, not about engineering availability. His smile really was the appreciation of the lack of a regulatory authority that measured his product for compliance. He was letting me know his methods were not deceptive because success could be redefined without accountability — easier to hit sales numbers by lowering the bar for engineering and then telling customers they never knew anything better (with quotes from paid experts), while laying blame (if any were to come back) on a competitor.

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