FTC warns retailers about mislabeling products

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Published: February 5,2010

Tags: consumer protection, retail

WASHINGTON — Seventy-eight companies nationwide have received Federal Trade Commission (FTC) letters warning that they may be breaking the law by selling clothing and other textile products that are labeled and advertised as “bamboo,” but actually are made of manufactured rayon fiber. The letters, which the agency’s staff sent last week, make the retailers aware of the FTC’s concerns about possible mislabeling of rayon products as “bamboo,” so the companies can take corrective steps to avoid Commission action.

The FTC sued several companies last year for allegedly selling products labeled or advertised as “bamboo” that in reality were made of rayon. Rayon is a man-made fiber created from the cellulose found in plants and trees and processed with harsh chemicals that release hazardous air pollution. Any plant or tree – including bamboo – could be used as the cellulose source, but the fiber that is created is rayon.

The FTC staff letter outlines the requirements for proper labeling and advertising of textile products derived from bamboo. The letter states, “Rayon, even if manufactured using cellulose from bamboo, must be described using an appropriate term recognized under the FTC’s Textile Rules… Failing to properly label and advertise textiles misleads consumers and runs afoul of both the Textile Rules and the FTC Act.”

In the letter, the FTC tells the companies they should review the labeling and advertising for the textile products they are selling and remove or correct any misleading bamboo references.

Along with the warning letters, the agency sent each company a synopsis of FTC decisions finding that the failure to use proper fiber names in textile labeling and advertising was deceptive and violated the FTC Act. Under the Act, the FTC can seek civil penalties of up to $16,000 per violation against any company that receives this information but fails to correct its advertising and labeling.

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