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You soon may see the name "lyocell" in the fiber content labels of some of the clothes you purchase. The Federal Trade Commission has proposed to allow clothing manufacturers to use the new name for a fiber that, although substantially the same as "rayon" in terms of chemical composition, has significantly different characteristics. For example, lyocell is said to be washable, whereas rayon must be dry-cleaned. The FTC is seeking comments on the proposal, which it announced in response to a petition filed by Courtaulds Fibers, Inc., a manufacturer of lyocell based in Axis, Alabama, that markets the new fiber under the trade name "Tencel." The FTC proposal to allow the use of the term lyocell is consistent with the requirements of many other countries and international standards organizations.

According to an FTC notice to be published shortly in the Federal Register, garments made from lyocell are "highly resistant to shrinkage and wrinkling...," and therefore can be machine washed. These unique physical and performance characteristics are due to a special manufacturing process, the notice states. Under the proposal announced today, the FTC would permit manufacturers to use lyocell as an alternative to the generic name rayon for cellulose-based fibers manufactured under this process.

The proposal contemplates an amendment to FTC rules and regulations under the Textile Act, with respect to the generic names and definitions that manufacturers can use in labeling textile fiber products. Under the proposed amendment, because of their chemical similarity, lyocell would be a subclass of rayon, rather than a whole new category.

Courtaulds had petitioned the FTC in January 1992 to add lyocell to the list of approved generic names, maintaining among other things that the fiber was in active commercial use in Europe under that generic name. As an interim response, in April of that year, the FTC granted the company a temporary designation to market the fiber. Thereafter, Courtaulds performed various tests and submitted the results to the FTC, which now is proposing the change to FTC rules.

The Commission vote on the proposal was 5-0. Comments on the proposal will be accepted for 60 days after publication in the Federal Register. They should be identified as "Rule 7(d) Under the Textile Act -- Comment," and addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, Room H-159, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580.

The FTC's consumer protection activities include, among other things, enforcing rules, regulations and acts that prohibit the misbranding of garments and ensure that consumers have needed information regarding the clothes they purchase. For example, the FTC's Care Labeling Rule requires garments to attach a label giving care and maintenance instructions. Missing or inaccurate washing instructions may violate the rule.

Similarly, the Textile, Wool and Fur Products Labeling Acts and their rules and regulations not only prohibit false and deceptive garment labels, but also require that labels disclose certain information that is necessary for the consumer to make an informed purchase decision. This information includes a description of the materials from which the garment is made. In this regard, the Textile Act requires that labels disclose the constituent fibers used by their generic names. The generic names are defined by the rules so that labels will be uniform and comparable, aiding an informed choice by purchasers. The Act and rules also, however, provide for the establishment of new generic names so that newly-developed, significantly-differentiated manufactured fibers will be distinguishable on labels.

Copies of the Federal Register notice and Courtaulds' 1992 petition 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:


(FTC Matter No. P928401)