Wool, textile and fur garment importers, sellers, distributors and advertisers may think labels are just a small detail on their products, but the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disagrees.  The FTC has established specific labeling guidelines which require most textile, wool and fur products to contain labels that show care instructions, the fiber content, the country of origin, and the identity of the manufacturer or another business responsible for marketing or handling the item.  Clothing manufacturers can learn a lot from those who have already paid large penalties to the FTC for their labeling mistakes.

The FTC negotiated the highest care labeling penalties with Tommy Hilfiger U.S.A. and Jones Apparel, who each paid $300,000 penalties because they sold garments accompanied by labeling instructions that, when followed, resulted in garment damage, in violation of the Care Labeling Rule.  In addition to paying the penalty, Tommy Hilfiger also placed a toll-free number on its care labels where consumers can contact the company directly with questions about cleaning or care of garments.

Cabot Hosiery Mills, Inc. paid $10,000 to settle charges that it violated the FTC’s Textile Fiber Products Identification Act (Textile Act) which requires products to be marked with the generic name and percentage by weight of each fiber present, listed in descending order of predominance.  Cabot Hosiery mislabeled socks by stating they contained more cotton and Lycra spandex fibers than they actually did.

The Textile Fiber Products Identification Act, the Wool Products Labeling Act and the Federal Products Labeling Act for fur products, all require proper country-of-origin disclosure on product labels.  Mohl Fur Company, seller of imported fur products, agreed to pay a $70,000 penalty because it failed to disclose the country of origin of the pelts in their imported fur products.  Likewise, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp., Delia’s Inc., Woolrich, Inc., Gottschalks, Inc., and Bugle Boy Industries, Inc. all settled with the FTC over allegations that they failed to provide proper county-of-origin labeling.

It is clear that manufacturers must pay close attention to the labels they place on their clothing to avoid costly FTC penalties and legal action down the road.