FTC Wants the Low Down of Feather Merchant Guides

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For Release

The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comment about whether the guides for the feather and down industry should be expanded to include a rating system disclosing the warmth of down products, similar to the R-Value ratings for home insulation.

As part of its ongoing review of all current Commission rules, regulations, and guides, the agency is seeking public comment about the Feather & Down Guides, which address claims for the advertising, labeling and sale of products that are wholly or partly filled with feathers or down, and all bulk stocks of processed feathers or down intended for use in the manufacture of such products.

In a Federal Register Notice published today, the FTC announced that it proposes to make several minor technical amendments to the guides and invited public comment on the proposed changes.

In addition the Commission is seeking comments on whether additional guides should be adopted that would help consumers determine the warmth factor of down or feather garments. Although the current guides do not require disclosure of a warmth factor, increasingly manufacturers are listing "fill power" numbers on down garments. Fill power is the ability of feather and down to resist compression and is an indicator of warmth. The notice states that there are many tests which purport to measure fill power that provide different results. "However, the Commission has learned that Japan has specified a particular fill power standard. . . Accordingly, to determine whether to provide guidance on these issues, the Commission is requesting further information about fill power, the Japanese fill power standard, warmth factor ratings similar to R-value, and any other standards for measuring quality," the notice says.

The Commission has also determined, subject to final review after a comment period, to make the following amendments to the guides:

  • it will amend certain sections of the guides to delete outdated language to describe the standard for deception;
  • it will eliminate restrictions on a filling material treatment process no longer in general use;
  • it will allow less costly, alternative methods for testing the composition of feathers and down; and,
  • it will eliminate a size disclosure requirement which has been adopted in most state laws.

The Commission is also seeking opinions about tolerances of certain contaminants in industry products, including non-waterfowl and damaged feathers.

Under the current regulations, U.S. manufacturers can advertise their filling as "down" even if it contains as much as 30% of other plumage materials. (Canadian regulations limit that amount to 25%.) The Federal Register Notice says the tolerances are intended to accommodate the imprecise processing and manufacturing process, not to encourage intentional alteration of down filling. "It appears, however, that an increased minimum requirement of 75% down and plumules currently may be practicable and is already embodied in the laws of Canada, a U.S. partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement." The Notice asks for comments as to whether adoption of the 75% standard would benefit consumers and be cost-effective for manufacturers.

The Commission vote to publish the Federal Register Notice was 5-0. Guides do not have the force of law, but are intended to encourage voluntary compliance with the FTC Act.

Copies of the current Guide and the Federal Register Notice 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. P948 803)

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