Release Date: April 2, 2002
The Federal Trade Commission today announced it has reached a settlement with Jones Apparel Group, Inc. (Jones), one of the largest clothing marketers in the world, resolving allegations that the company violated the FTC's Care Labeling Rule on various occasions between 1998 and 2000. According to the FTC complaint, Jones sold some garment styles with care labeling instructions that, when followed, resulted in damaged garments. In some garments with a raised design known as flocking, part of the flocking disappeared when the garments were dry cleaned; other garments faded when dry cleaned. The complaint also alleged that Jones sold certain cashmere sweaters labeled "dry clean only" that, in fact, could be hand-washed safely by consumers.
"The FTC's Care Labeling Rule is designed to ensure that consumers don't lose the hard-earned money they spend on clothing because of inaccurate information on how to clean it," said J. Howard Beales, III, Director of the Commission's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "The agreement reached with Jones and announced today will help ensure that Jones will comply with the Rule and that consumers will have the information that they need to take care of their clothing."
The FTC's Care Labeling Rule, issued in December 1971, requires manufacturers and importers of textile wearing apparel to attach care labels to these items. These labels must state "what regular care is needed for the ordinary use of the product." The Rule also requires that the manufacturer or importer possess, prior to sale, a reasonable basis for the care instructions, including any warnings. According to the FTC's complaint, Jones violated the Rule when the company failed to provide accurate information on how to dry clean several of its garment styles and did not have a reasonable basis for warning that certain cashmere sweaters must be dry cleaned only and could not be washed.
The $300,000 penalty is among the largest the FTC has ever obtained against a clothing manufacturer for a Care Labeling Rule violation. A similar $300,000 penalty was imposed against Tommy Hilfiger U.S.A. Inc. in the spring of 1999 for allegedly omitting care labeling information that led to its garments bleeding and fading when washed according to instructions.
In addition to paying the $300,000 civil penalty, the company has agreed to develop written procedures to be used in labeling its garments to help ensure its compliance with the Rule in the future.
The complaint against the company and consent decree resolving the charges were filed on the FTC's behalf by the Department of Justice (DOJ) today. The Commission vote to accept the proposed consent decree and forward it to the DOJ for filing was 5-0.
NOTE: This consent agreement is for settlement purposes only and does not constitute an admission by the defendant of a law violation. Consent decrees are subject to the court's approval and have the force of law when signed by the judge.
Copies of the Commission's complaint and consent decree 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. The Web site has guidance to help businesses comply with the Care Labeling Rule and clothing care tips for consumers at http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/textilejump.htm. Businesses and consumers can also get free information about the Care Labeling Rule or any of 150 other consumer topics, by calling toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). To file a complaint, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357) or use the complaint form at http://www.ftc.gov. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.
(FTC File No. 012-3027)