The Federal Trade Commission has charged a New York-based drycleaning operation with providing wedding gown manufacturers with care labels that violate the Care Labeling Rule, and with falsely advertising that it was the only drycleaner able to clean gowns with those labels.
"Brides cherish and preserve their wedding day memories by taking pictures and often by keeping their dresses," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The photos can be preserved safely in plastic, and the gowns can be too, if brides aren’t taken to the cleaners by drycleaners who falsely represent themselves as the only cleaners able to clean and preserve their gowns."
In an administrative complaint announced today, the FTC alleges that Continental Gown Cleaning Service, Inc., four related companies and two corporate officers, misled consumers by providing improper care labels to wedding gown manufacturers. In addition to Continental, the complaint names Nationwide Gown Cleaning Service, Inc.; Prestige Gown Cleaning Service, Inc., also doing business as Prestige Gown Service, Inc.; Gown Cleaning Service, Inc.; and Jonathan Ashley, Ltd. Lewis Weissman and Gary Marcus were named as individual defendants. The care labels promoted the "Zurcion Method" of cleaning and preserving wedding gowns and other formal wear.
The FTC alleges that Continental falsely stated in promotional materials that the labels it provided to wedding gown manufacturers were in compliance with the agency’s Care Labeling Rule, which has been in effect since 1972 and requires manufacturers and importers of clothing to attach care labels. In fact, according to the FTC, Continental’s labels did not comply with the Care Labeling Rule. Generally, the rule requires that labels state what regular care is needed for the ordinary use of the garment. For this reason, care labels usually specify either a washing instruction or a dry cleaning instruction. According to the complaint, the companies’ labels violate the rule because they fail to state at least one type of solvent that may be used on the garment.
Among the labels the Flushing, New York-based companies provided to wedding gown manufacturers were two that stated:
"Dryclean Only by Zurcion Method Continental 1-800-441-GOWN Manufacturers Guaranteed Processing."
"Dryclean Only by Zurcion Method Continental 1-800-441-GOWN Made in U.S.A."
The complaint also alleges that Continental made false advertising representations to wedding gown manufacturers and consumers. For example, according to the complaint, the company falsely claimed that its "Zurcion Method" was a patented drycleaning process and that it was the only safe and effective method for cleaning and preserving wedding gowns. In addition, the agency alleges that Continental did not disclose to consumers the conditions of its guarantee or warranty related to preserving wedding gowns. For example, the complaint notes that if a consumer sent a gown to Continental for cleaning and preserving, the gown would be returned to the consumer in a sealed container and the consumer would have to return the gown to the company to be "unpreserved" before the gown could be worn. Otherwise, the consumer would invalidate the warranty by breaking the seal or opening the container to check the condition of the gown.
The Notice Order issued with the complaint would prohibit the companies from claiming that the "Zurcion Method" is the only safe and effective way of cleaning wedding gowns or other formal wear. It would also prohibit them from providing care labels to manufacturers of apparel, and from falsely stating that any care instruction complies with the Care Labeling Rule.
In addition, the Notice Order would require that the companies have evidence for any claims they make about the safety and effectiveness of any cleaning or preserving service they sell. If the companies offer a guarantee of their cleaning or preservation services, the Notice Order would require them to tell consumers the terms and conditions of the guarantee. For example, if the companies’ guarantee is invalidated if the consumer opens the box that the wedding dress comes packed in, the companies must say this in any advertisement that mentions the guarantee. The Notice Order also would require the companies to tell garment manufacturers and bridal shops to which they provided care labels or promotional materials that the labels are not accurate and that other cleaners can clean and preserve garments that have the "Zurcion Method" label attached to them.
The Commission vote to file the administrative complaint was 5-0, with Commissioner Orson Swindle voting in the affirmative but dissenting from the inclusion of Part III of the Notice Order, which would prohibit the companies from providing any type of label to manufacturers. In addition to filing the complaint, the Commission also voted 5-0 to recommend that the Department of Justice file civil penalty complaints against three wedding gown manufacturers for alleged violations of the Care Labeling Rule.
NOTE: The Commission issues a complaint when it has "reason to believe" that the law has been or is being violated, and it appears to the Commission that a proceeding is in the public interest. The issuance of a complaint is not a finding or ruling that the respondent has violated the law. The complaint marks the beginning of a proceeding in which the allegations will be ruled upon after a formal hearing.
Copies of the complaint and consumer education material about the Care Labeling Rule are available from the FTC’s web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 202-326-2502. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC Docket No. 9287)