In some ways, think of it as “faux faux fur.” No, that’s not a typo. It’s what results when national retailers advertise items of apparel as fake fur, when in fact, they contain, well, fur. Those are just some of the allegations in recent FTC complaints against The Neiman Marcus Group, Inc., DrJays.com, Inc., and Eminent, Inc. (which shoppers may know as Revolve Clothing).
Some consumers like fur products. Others make a conscious choice not to buy them. That’s why the Fur Act and the FTC’s Fur Rules require that companies give potential purchasers accurate information about what they’re buying whether at retail, in advertising, and online.
Where does the FTC say the companies went wrong? One major concern was that they described items as "faux fur" when the fur was actually real. And by not disclosing the products contained real fur, that means the companies also didn't honor their obligation under the law to truthfully tell people the kind of fur and its country of origin.
For example, in describing items on its website, Neiman Marcus misrepresented the fur content and failed to disclose the animal name and fur country of origin for three products: a Burberry Outerwear Jacket, a Stuart Weitzman Ballerina Flat shoe, and an Alice + Olivia Kyah Coat. The company also misrepresented the fur content of the Ballerina Flat at bergdorfgoodman.com. In addition, the FTC says Neiman’s catalog and mail ads misrepresented that the shoe contained mink fur, when it really contained rabbit, and failed to disclose the fur country of origin all three products.
Check your closets if your bought any of these items from DrJays.com: the Snorkel Jacket by Crown Holder with a fur-lined hood, a Fur/Leather Vest by Knoles & Carter with exterior fur, or a New York Subway Leather Bomber Jacket by United Face with fur lining. The FTC says the company misrepresented the fur content and failed to disclose the animal name for those products.
The complaint against Eminent, Inc., charged that the company misrepresented the fur content and failed to disclose the animal name for four products: an Australia Luxe Collective Nordic Angel Short Boot with a fur-trimmed hood, a Mark Jacobs Runway Roebling Coat, a Dakota Xan Fur Poncho, and an Eryn Brinie Belted Faux Fur Vest.
The proposed settlements bar future violations of the Fur Act and the Fur Rules. Consistent with an FTC Enforcement Policy Statement announced in January 2013, the orders provide that the companies won’t be held liable for misrepresentations about fur products for which they cannot legally get guarantees from the manufacturer if: 1) they don’t embellish or misrepresent what the manufacturer said about the product; 2) they don’t sell the product under a private label; and 3) they neither knew nor should have known that the item was marketed in a way that violated the Fur Act.
What’s that mean for your clients who sell apparel? Tell the truth about your products and honor the disclosure requirements of the Fur Rules. Most importantly — and this shouldn’t come as a surprise — don’t call it “faux fur” if it’s really made out of fur. Furthermore, if apparel contains fur, online ads for it have to accurately disclose, among other things, the animal that produced the fur and the fur’s country of origin. To protect themselves, retailers should examine product invoices and labels to see if they suggest that “faux fur” products actually contain real fur.
Thinking about commenting on the proposed settlements? The deadline is April 18, 2013. To find out more about your obligations under the law, read In-FUR-mation Alert: How to Comply with the Fur Products Labeling Act and bookmark the FTC's Clothing and Textiles page with resources for manufacturers and retailers.