FTC Amends Wool Labeling Rules
May 30, 2014

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) approved amendments to its wool labeling rules this week, including one that could allow fiber suppliers, apparel manufacturers and retailers more flexibility in advertising certain fibers on their hangtags.

The FTC, in a 5-0 vote, approved the amendments to its rules under the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939. The changes will take effect 30 days after being published in the Federal Register.

One of the most "substantive changes," according to Robert Frisby, an attorney for the FTC, is an amended rule on hangtag disclosures, which will allow companies to identify or highlight a fiber in a garment without having to disclose a product's full fiber content on the hangtag.

The commission found merit in the industry's arguments and decided to amend the rule to permit hangtags to include just one fiber. However, Frisby said the commission also included a caveat - companies must disclose to the consumer that they are not getting the full fiber content on the hangtag or direct them to check the label for the full fiber content.

The American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA) questioned whether any disclosure of fiber content was necessary on hangtags and requested clarification on how to make the disclosure "clearly and conspicuously," according to the FTC documents.

Separately, the commission, siding with the industry, also rejected a proposed rule change that would have made continuing guarantees on products expire after one year. Retailers receive guarantees from suppliers that the product they are receiving is properly labeled, which gives them a legal defense against any action by the FTC - if they receive the guarantee in good faith - in the event a product was misbranded, Frisby said.

The AAFA argued against the FTC's proposed amendment, saying that most companies file dozens of such guarantees and many file hundreds, at a considerable cost.

AAFA stated in its public comments that vendors face a "clerical nightmare of keeping up with the guarantees" and buyers often have difficulty obtaining guarantees from the commission in a timely manner.

Reprinted in part from Textiles in the News