FTC Votes to Amend Its Care Labeling Rule For Clothing

Closing Formal Rulemaking, Commission Does Not Adopt Two Revisions Under Consideration

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The Federal Trade Commission today announced that through its formal rulemaking process it has approved two amendments to the Care Labeling Rule, 16 C.F.R. Part 423, while not adopting two other revisions that had been considered. The two amendments to the Rule concern: 1) clarification of the reasonable basis standard; and 2) an update of the water temperature definitions to ensure they conform to current industry standards.

The rulemaking record did not support a proposed revision that would have made it mandatory for washing instructions to be given in all instances where washing can be used, or a proposed revision to allow a care label instruction for "professional wetcleaning." The FTC proposed the amendments in a notice of proposed rulemaking published in the Federal Register on May 8, 1998. Today's actions conclude the Commission's rulemaking on the Care Labeling Rule.

The Rule amendments approved by the Commission: 1) clarify the reasonable basis standard; and 2) update the water temperature definitions to conform with current industry standards. The amended reasonable basis standard clarifies the evidence needed to substantiate cleaning instructions for a garment. For example, evidence showing that each different part of the garment could be cleaned by the method stated on the label would not constitute a reasonable basis if, in fact, one part bleeds onto another when the garment as a whole is cleaned by that method. The other amendment, updating the current definitions of "hot," "warm" and "cold" water, will make these terms compatible with those used by the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC), a private standards-setting organization that develops test methods widely used in the textile and apparel industries.

The rulemaking did not support two additional amendments considered by the Commission. The first would have required all garments that can be washed at home to be labeled for home washing. Such an amendment would have represented a fundamental change to the Rule, by mandating a particular instruction, rather than leaving it to the discretion of the manufacturer in situations where either home washing or dry cleaning would be feasible. The Commission concluded that the effect of the proposed amendment was speculative and that changes in the marketplace in recent years indicated that regulatory revision may not be needed or appropriate.

The second proposed amendment that was not adopted would have allowed a care label instruction for "professional wetcleaning." Based on industry comments and participant feedback received during a January 1999 public workshop, the Commission concluded that at this time there is no agreement as to the appropriate definition of "professional wetcleaning." Accordingly, the Commission agrees with several rulemaking participants who suggested that a private standards-setting organization such as the AATCC should develop this definition. Because neither a definition nor a test procedure for "professional wetcleaning" has yet been developed, the Commission concluded that an amendment to allow garments to be labeled for "professional wetcleaning" would be premature.

The Commission vote to amend the Rule was 5-0. A Federal Register notice containing additional information on the "Final Amended Trade Regulation Rule on Care Labeling of Textile Wearing Apparel and Certain Piece Goods" will be published shortly, and will be available on the FTC's Web site at www.ftc.gov. This notice will also present the Commission's Statement of Basis and Purpose (SBP) for the amendments.

Copies of materials relating to the Commission's 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, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD 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.

Mitchell Katz

Office of Public Affairs

202-326-2161

Elaine D. Kolish

Bureau of Consumer Protection

202-326-3042

(File No. 992-3121)

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