|Mr. Donald S. Clark
Federal Trade Commission
Sixth & Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20580
Dear Mr. Secretary:
This is the American Apparel Manufacturers Association's response to the Federal Trade Commission's request for comments on the "Trade Regulation Rule on Care Labeling of Textile Wearing Apparel and Certain Piece Goods" (16 CFR Part 423). AAMA is the major national trade association of the domestic apparel industry. Its members produce about 85% of the clothing sold at wholesale in the U.S. and have operations in almost every state.
In the Federal Register Notice of May 8, 1998, the Commission indicated it was commencing rulemaking to amend its Care Labeling Rule (16 CFRR Part 423). The Commission proposes to amend the "Rule:"
The following is AAMA's response to the Commission's four proposed amendments and its request for comments on specific questions posed in the Notice.
Labeling For Home Washing
It is not in the best interest of apparel firms to underlabel garments - "dry clean only." The Commission speculated that underlabeling could result in reducing consumer demand for a specific garment because of the additional cost and time required to dry-clean garments.
Responsible apparel firms label their garments according to what they believe to be the best method of cleaning. Requiring all apparel firms to provide the consumer with home laundering instructions if a garment can be safely maintained with home washing, will not, by itself, reduce underlabeling. The Commission's proposal would:
These two requirements would add to the cost of maintaining a reasonable basis for the care instructions manufacturers put on garments. Unless the Commission is prepared to significantly increase its enforcement of this regulation, those firms that underlabel will continue to do so. Reputable firms will incur additional costs to comply with this additional requirement. There is a gray area between garments that need some type of professional cleaning and finishing and those that can be maintained with home washing and finishing. There must be some flexibility in this area for the garment manufacturer to decide on the best method to maintain a garment.
AAMA members are concerned about the environmental problem of the use of dry cleaning fluids. They are also concerned that what they put on garments will provide the best care instructions possible. Underlabeling is just not an option for firms that want to stay in business. Consumers are more knowledgeable about apparel. They are placing more emphasis on quality and price and the easy care of the goods they purchase.
Consumers are more knowledgeable about what fibers can be home washed. Many silk blouses and wool tops can be successfully maintained at home. There are instructions in many garments on how to maintain the garment without incurring the cost of professional help.
Professionally Wet Cleaned
In March 1996 AAMA stated that the availability of wet cleaning establishments and consumers' knowledge of wet cleaning was very limited. It was estimated that only 350 of 30,000 cleaning establishments had professional wet cleaning equipment. We still believe that it is too early to require care instructions for wet cleaning. Several larger AAMA members are assessing wet cleaning technology and how it may influence care labeling of their garments in the future.
The Commission's proposal to define "professional wet cleaning" and allow apparel firms to put wet cleaning instructions on care labels when they have a reasonable basis for such instructions is a logical first step.
Although the wet cleaning process is relatively new, there is recognition that this is likely to be an alternative to dry cleaning in the future. Because of this, work is being done within NAFTA and the International Standards Organization to develop a wet cleaning care symbol.
Reasonable Basis Requirement
In the Commission's discussion of its proposed changes to the "reasonable basis requirement," it noted that AAMA opposed changing the requirement in 1996. We indicated that our members specify fabric performance and quality from the textile mills and for most other materials used in their garments. They test new styles to make sure that components are compatible. No reputable apparel firm wants dissatisfied consumers. It is in their best interest to make garments that meet consumers' expectations. They also want consumers to know how to take proper care of the garment through its useful life.
Our members test most garments to make sure that the component parts are compatible and that they have a reasonable basis for the instructions put on a care label. However, it is sometimes difficult for reasons of fashion to make garments of wholly compatible materials. The number of garments made in the U.S. that, for fashion orientation, contain non-compatible materials is a very small portion of the total garments consumed. To require that all garments be made entirely of compatible components unduly restricts the creation of fashion.
Definitions of Water Temperatures
In the Commission's review of water temperatures, it acknowledges that we already have a sufficient body of data and standards to clearly define "hot," "warm" and "cold." The AATCC standards are being used by apparel manufacturers when they test garments. However, there are several problems that will be difficult to resolve. Among the most important are variations in climate throughout the country and the inability to set specific water temperatures on most home washing machines.
AAMA agrees with the Commission that it should not modify the Rule to require that precise temperatures be listed on care labels. We also agree that a consumer education campaign would improve knowledge of what temperatures are used in the home laundry. Part of the education process will take place as consumers use care symbols. The current NAFTA care symbol guide indicates the median temperature for "hot," "warm" and "cold" in both Fahrenheit and Celsius.
Wet Cleaning, Questions 1-3 AAMA has no basis to comment on the first two questions posed by the Commission on the subject of wet cleaning. On the question of whether the Rule should allow that if professional wet cleaning instructions are provided to the consumer, no other instructions need be given, we feel it is not feasible today when less than two percent of all cleaning establishments have wet cleaning equipment.
Reasonable Basis, Question 4 There appears to be no ambiguity about the Commission's proposed changes in the reasonable basis requirement. It is clear that the Commission will require an apparel manufacturer or importer to have reliable evidence not only that each component of a garment can be cleaned according to the care instructions but also the manufacturer must possess a reasonable basis for cleaning the garment as a whole. AAMA is opposed to requiring that all components be compatible with the care instructions because there are instances where non-compatible trim is used.
Definitions of Water Temperatures, Questions 5-6 There is a need to help consumers understand how home laundry machines differentiate water temperatures and how the water temperature varies seasonally as well as geographically. Some consumers are unaware that very cold water does not activate the cleaning properties of most detergents. For example, a consumer in the northern states may use a cold water setting in the summer but needs a warm water setting in winter.
The question of whether consumers would understand the instruction to use very hot water is important only when professional cleaning is needed. For environmental reasons most hot water heaters in the U.S. do not generate water above 120 F.
Carl H. Priestland