Neiman Marcus and two other retailers agreed to settle federal charges on Tuesday that they had mislabeled fur products on clothing — in some cases selling garments with fur while advertising them as synthetic alternatives that some shoppers consider more humane.
The settlements ended probes initiated after complaints by the Humane Society of the United States, an animal rights group that has run private investigations in recent years to expose what it says is a widespread problem of mislabeled fur products.
Federal law requires that all fur products list both the animal used and its country of origin. Under the terms of the settlement, which carried no fines, the retailers did not admit guilt but instead agreed to abide by the terms of federal fur labeling laws for the next 20 years. Violations can trigger fines.
“The Fur Act protects all consumers, including those who don’t want to buy fur,” said Matt Wilshire, a staff attorney for the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which investigated the retailers and reached Tuesday’s settlement.
The FTC alleged that Neiman Marcus, for example, advertised on its Web site a jacket with “Black faux-fur hood with snap-tab detail” when the garment’s own labeling showed that the hood was made with fur. In a Neiman Marcus coat, fur was discovered on what was advertised as a “faux fur” collar.
The other retailers involved in the settlement were DrJays.com and Eminent, doing business under the name Resolve Clothing. In some cases, only the animal listed on the labels was wrong.
Synthetic fur is generally less expensive than fur, which has made a rebound in the fashion industry despite years of protests by animal-rights groups.
Neither the FTC nor the Humane Society alleged that the labeling problems were part of an intentional strategy by the retailers to mislead consumers who might prefer synthetic alternatives to fur. Instead, the rights group said the failure of retailers to comply with federal labeling requirements could cause consumers who want to avoid using animal products to accidentally buy coats that have fur trim.
“The misrepresentation of animal fur as faux or the wrong species is a massive problem in the retail industry, and it has been going on for years despite our best attempts to get the retailers to address the problem,” said Pierre Grzybowski, who oversees fur research and enforcement for the animal-rights group.
Neiman Marcus, which also was investigated by the FTC in 2009 over allegations of fur mislabeling, said in a statement Tuesday that it has a “robust program to comply with all laws and regulations intended to protect consumers.”
It added, “Neiman Marcus will continue to work closely with our vendors and the FTC to provide the transparent and accurate product information that our customers expect and deserve.”
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