FTC Charges Companies with 'Bamboo-zling' Consumers with False Product Claims

Bamboo-based Textiles, Actually Made of Rayon, Are Not Antimicrobial, Made in an Environmentally Friendly Manner, or Biodegradable

For Release

The Federal Trade Commission has charged four sellers of clothing and other textile products with deceptively labeling and advertising these items as made of bamboo fiber, when they are made of rayon. The complaints also charge the companies with making false and unsubstantiated “green” claims that their clothing and textile products are manufactured using an environmentally friendly process, that they retain the natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant, and that they are biodegradable.

Three of the companies – Sami Designs, LLC, doing business as (d/b/a) Jonäno; CSE, Inc., d/b/a Mad Mod; and Pure Bamboo, LLC – have settled the FTC’s complaints, agreeing to stop making the false claims and to abide by the Commission’s Textile Fiber Products Identification Act (Textile Act) and Rules. Litigation continues against The M Group, Inc., d/b/a Bamboosa, and its principals.

“With the tremendous expansion of green claims in today’s marketplace, it is particularly important for the FTC to address deceptive environmental claims, so that consumers can trust that the products they buy have the environmentally friendly attributes they want,” said David Vladeck, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “When companies sell products woven from man-made fibers, such as rayon, it is important that they accurately label and advertise those products – both with respect to the fibers they use and to the qualities those fibers possess.”

According to the Commission’s complaints, the companies falsely claim that their rayon clothing and other textile products are “100% bamboo fiber.” They market them under such names as “ecoKashmere,” “Pure Bamboo,” “Bamboo Comfort,” and “BambooBaby.” Rayon is a man-made fiber created from the cellulose found in plants and trees and processed with a harsh chemical that releases hazardous air pollutants. Any plant or tree could be used as the cellulose source – including bamboo – but the fiber that is created is rayon.

The complaints also allege that these four companies make a number of other “green” claims about their clothing and textile products, none of which are true or substantiated. All four companies claim their products retain the bamboo plant’s antimicrobial properties. The settling companies – Jonäno, Mad Mod, and Pure Bamboo – also claim that their products are made using environmentally-friendly manufacturing processes, and both Pure Bamboo and Bamboosa make unqualified claims that their products are biodegradable, and that they will completely break down and return to the elements found in nature in a reasonably short period of time after customary disposal.

As the Commission charges, even if the rayon used in the companies’ clothing and textile products is manufactured using bamboo as the cellulose source, rayon does not retain any natural antimicrobial properties of the bamboo plant. The rayon manufacturing process, which involves dissolving the plant source in harsh chemicals, eliminates any such natural properties of the bamboo plant. Similarly, the Commission charges that the companies’ clothing and textiles are not made using an environmentally friendly process.

The rayon manufacturing process uses toxic chemicals and results in the emission of hazardous air pollutants. And, despite the claims of Pure Bamboo and Bamboosa, the Commission charges that these rayon products are not biodegradable because they will not break down in a reasonably short time after customary disposal. Most clothing and textiles are disposed of either by recycling or sending to a landfill. Neither method results in quick biodegradation.

The complaints also charge these four companies with violating the Textile Act and Rules by, among other things, falsely and deceptively labeling and advertising their clothing and textile products as bamboo, when they should be labeled and advertised as rayon. The FTC also charges three of the companies – Jonäno, Mad Mod, and Pure Bamboo – with violating the Textile Act and Rules by advertising or labeling their products without disclosing where the products were manufactured.

Jonäno, Mad Mod, and Pure Bamboo have agreed to settlements that will ensure they use the proper names to label and advertise the fibers in their products and do not violate the Textile Act and Rules in the future.

The settlements bar these companies from claiming that any textile product: is made of bamboo or bamboo fiber; is manufactured using an environmentally friendly process; or is antimicrobial or retains the anti-microbial properties of the product from which it is made, unless the claims are true, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable scientific evidence. Pure Bamboo is further barred from claiming its products are biodegradable, unless the claim is true, not misleading, and substantiated by reliable and competent scientific evidence. The settlements also bar the three companies from making any claims about the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any clothing or textile product they sell, unless the claims are true, not misleading, and substantiated by competent and reliable evidence.

The proposed orders do allow the companies to describe their products as “rayon made from bamboo,” as long as this is true and can be substantiated.

The Commission’s administrative complaint against The M Group, Inc., d/b/a Bamboosa, and its principals was issued on August 7, 2009.

New Information for Business and Consumers

The FTC has a new publication designed to help businesses selling clothing and textile products that are labeled as bamboo to market their products in ways that are truthful, non-deceptive, and in compliance with the law. “Avoid Bamboo-zling Your Customers,” can be found on the Commission’s Web site at ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/business/alerts/alt172.shtm, and provides useful information on how to correctly label and advertise textiles that are rayon made from bamboo. The Commission also has a new alert entitled “Have You Been Bamboozled by Bamboo Fabrics?” that provides useful information for consumers shopping for bamboo-based fabrics. It can be found on the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt160.shtm.

The Commission votes approving the administrative complaints and proposed consent orders were each 4-0. The orders will be subject to public comment for 30 days, until September 10, 2009, after which the Commission will decide whether to make them final. Written comment should be sent to: FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20580. To file a public comment electronically, please click on the following hyperlink: http://www.ftc.gov/os/2009/08/bamboopubliccomment.pdf and follow the instructions.

NOTE: The Commission authorizes the filing of a complaint when it has “reason to believe” that the law has or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. A complaint is not a finding or ruling that the defendants have actually violated the law. The consent agreements are for settlement purposes only and do not constitute an admission of a violation of the complaint. When the Commission issues an order on a final basis, it carries the force of law with respect to future actions. Each violation of such an order may result in a civil penalty of $16,000.

Copies of the documents related to these cases are available from the FTC’s Web site at http://www.ftc.gov and from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580. The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics.

(FTC File Nos. Bamboosa, 082-3184; Jonäno, 082-3194; Pure Bamboo, 082-3193, and Mad Mod, 082-3181)(Bamboo.final.wpd)

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