Continental Gown Cleaning Service, Inc., a New York-based drycleaning operation, four related drycleaning companies operating at the same address, and the two individuals who controlled them, have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that they violated the FTC Act by providing improper care labels to wedding gown manufacturers who attached the improper labels to the gowns they manufactured and sold. Continental Gown Cleaning Service, Inc., Nationwide Gown Cleaning Service, Inc., Prestige Gown Cleaning Service, Inc., Gown Cleaning Service, Inc., Jonathan Ashley, Ltd., Lewis Weissman and Gary Marcus (collectively Continental Gown) solicited gown manufacturers and importers to label gowns with care instructions such as ADry Clean Only by Zurcion Method, Continental 1-800-441-GOWN, manufacturers guaranteed processing. The FTC's complaint alleged that these care labels violate the Commission's Care Labeling Rule because they recommend drycleaning but do not name a drycleaning solvent that can be used without damaging the gowns and do not warn that certain modifications must be made to the normal drycleaning process for delicate gowns such as wedding gowns.
The FTC alleged that the care labels distributed by Continental misled consumers by making the unsubstantiated claim that gowns with those labels could only be cleaned by the Zurcion Method. The complaint also alleged that Continental made false and unsubstantiated advertising claims that the Zurcion Method was patented, that these gowns could only be cleaned by the Zurcion Method, and that it was the only cleaner who could clean these gowns safely and effectively. In addition, the FTC alleged that Continental did not disclose to consumers the material limitations and conditions of its guarantee of the wedding gowns it cleaned and preserved.
The proposed settlement, announced today for public comment, would prohibit Continental and the other respondents from providing apparel companies and stores with the means and instrumentalities to violate the FTC Act and the Care Labeling Rule, and would prohibit them from disseminating labels that fail to provide specific information required by the Care Labeling Rule. It would require respondents to obtain a written statement from an apparel manufacturer or importer stating the company's reasonable basis for any care instructions that appear on labels or tags disseminated by respondents. The proposed settlement also would prohibit respondents from misrepresenting that the AZurcion Method is the only safe and effective way to clean wedding gowns or other formal wear, or from claiming that Continental Gown is the only cleaner who can clean these garments.
In addition, the proposed order prohibits the respondents from making claims about the comparative or absolute safety or efficacy of any cleaning or preservation method, service, company, or product, unless the claim is true and they have competent and reliable supporting evidence, which, where necessary, must be scientific evidence. Further, if respondents offer a guarantee of their cleaning and preservation services, the order would require them to tell consumers the terms and conditions of the guarantee.
The proposed settlement also would require respondents to:
provide garment manufacturers or importers who did business with them with a copy of the consent order and notify them that they should stop using the Zurcion labels;
disclose to persons, other than apparel companies, who contact them regarding the cleaning or preservation of garments bearing Zurcion labels, that other cleaning methods may be used safely and effectively to clean the garments and refer these persons to the manufacturer or importer of their garment to get cleaning instructions.
Finally, the proposed settlement contains various record keeping provisions to assist the FTC in monitoring Continental's compliance.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent agreement for public comment was 4-0.
An announcement regarding the proposed consent agreement will be published in the Federal Register shortly. The agreement will be subject to public comment for 60 days, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.
NOTE: A consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission of a law violation. When the Commission issues a consent 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 $11,000.
Copies of the complaint, proposed consent agreement, and an analysis of the proposed consent order to aid public comment are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. Consent agreements subject to public comment also are available by calling 202-326-3627. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC Docket No. 9287)