FTC PROPOSES AMENDMENTS TO ITS CARE LABELING RULE
On May 8, 1998, the Federal Trade Commission published a notice in the Federal Register seeking public comments on proposed amendments to the Care Labeling Rule, which requires labels to be placed on clothing and certain piece goods indicating instructions for at least one safe method for cleaning the product. The FTC proposed amending the rule to require home washing instructions for garments for which home washing is appropriate. This amendment would permit optional dry cleaning instructions for such washable items, so long as dry cleaning would be an appropriate alternative cleaning method. The Commission also proposed allowing labels to recommend a new garment cleaning technique, professional wet cleaning. The comment period that followed publication of the notice is closed.
The Care Labeling Rule, issued in 1971, requires clothing manufacturers and importers to attach care labels to garments, giving full instructions for at least one satisfactory method of care, or stating that the garment cannot be cleaned. The label also must warn against any part of the recommended care method that would harm the garment or other garments being cleaned with it.
The rule provides that manufacturers and importers must have a reasonable basis to substantiate their instructions and warnings.
In June 1994, as part of its periodic review of its rules and guides to determine their effectiveness and impact, the Commission requested public comments on, among other things, whether the rule should be modified to allow the use of symbols instead of words. The FTC also sought comments on a "dual disclosure" requirement that would require labeling for both dry cleaning and washing, and comments on whether any change was necessary to the rule's reasonable basis requirements.
The May 8 notice followed the FTC's Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) published on December 28, 1995 (the FTC received a total of 64 comments in response to the ANPR.) In the ANPR, the FTC sought comments on whether the rule should be amended to require a laundering instruction for all covered products for which laundering is appropriate. The Commission received 41 comments supporting that proposal.
In the May 8 notice, the Commission sought comments in four general areas:
- whether to require an item that can be cleaned by home washing to be labeled with instructions for home washing;
- whether to allow a garment that can be professionally wet cleaned to be labeled with instructions for professional wet cleaning;
- to clarify what can constitute a reasonable basis for care instructions; and
- to change the definitions of "cold," "warm" and "hot" water to match those used by an independent standards and testing association.
The 38 comments that were received in response to the notice published in the May 8, 1998 Federal Register appear below.