Laura Ashley, Inc., an importer and retailer of children’s and women’s ready-to-wear clothes, has agreed to pay a $60,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it violated the FTC’s Care Labeling Rule. In addition to imposing the civil penalty, the proposed settlement would prohibit Laura Ashley from violating the Care Labeling Rule in the future.
The Care Labeling Rule is designed to help consumers and professional dry-cleaners determine proper clothing care. The rule requires clothing manufacturers and importers to provide labels giving full written instructions for at least one satisfactory method of care for the ordinary use of the garment. The rule also requires that manufacturers or importers possess a reasonable basis for the care instructions they provide.
Laura Ashley, Inc., a Massachusetts-based corporation, owns and operates more than 100 retail stores across the United States and a mail-order catalog business through which it sells its imported clothing. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Laura Ashley Holdings plc, a British corporation.
According to the FTC’s complaint detailing the charges, in numerous instances Laura Ashley’s labels failed to give written care instructions or instructions for laundering, drying, ironing, bleaching or dry-cleaning. Instead, Laura Ashley’s labels used symbols for care instructions. Under the current rule, symbols or pictographs may be used on the labels, but they must be accompanied by the required written explanations. Laura Ashley did not provide the required written explanations.
The Commission is considering a conditional exemption to the Care Labeling Rule to permit the use of symbols under certain conditions. For example, the use of symbols might be permitted, if, during the first year of their use, sellers provided explanatory information with the garment to explain the meaning of the symbols on the permanent care label. The Commission has not yet made a final decision on whether to permit the use of symbols under these or other conditions.
Under the agreement to settle the charges, Laura Ashley will pay the civil penalty and will be barred from future violations of the rule.
The Commission vote to authorize the filing of the complaint and proposed consent decree was 4-1, with Commissioner Christine A. Varney dissenting. The matter was handled by the FTC’s Dallas Regional Office. The proposed consent decree was filed yesterday by the Department of Justice at the request of the FTC. It is subject to court approval.
NOTE: This consent decree is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent decrees have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the complaint and proposed consent decree are available from the FTC’s Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC’s World Wide Web site at: http://www.ftc.gov
Claudia Bourne Farrell
Office of Public Affairs
(FTC File No. 932 3302)
(Civil Action No. 96-11624DPW)