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FTC Ruling Favors Fur, Retail Industry

The Federal Trade Commission has issued a final rule in its review of the Fur Products Name Guide, handing a victory to the fur and retail industry.

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission has issued a final rule in its review of the Fur Products Name Guide, handing a victory to the fur and retail industry after it rejected a proposal by the Humane Society of the United States and others to change the classification and labeling requirements of a certain type of animal whose fur is widely used in garments.

The HSUS has long been pressing the FTC to change the classification of “Asiatic Raccoon,” which has been on the books since 1961, to “Raccoon Dog.” The HSUS and others argued in FTC filings that the current classification misleads consumers as to a product’s fur content, which they contended is related to a domestic dog, a fact they claimed U.S. consumers might object to wearing.

On the opposite side of the debate, the Fur Information Council of America, fur retailer BCI and others said in their filings to the FTC that requiring “Raccoon Dog” on labels would conversely mislead and confuse consumers about the animal’s relationship to domestic dogs and “eliminate” the current market for apparel trimmed with the fur.

The FTC sided with the fur industry and retailers in its 59-page decision. The agency determined that the animal has two “true English names: Asiatic Raccoon and Raccoon Dog.” But it ruled that “Asiatic Raccoon” has been recognized by consumers for decades, that a change to “Raccoon Dog” would confuse consumers and that arguments against the continued use of “Asiatic Raccoon” were “not persuasive.”

“Indeed, for more than half a century, that term has appeared on countless product labels to denote the animal in question, and consumers of fur products now closely associate that name with this animal,” the FTC said. “The proposed alternative, ‘Raccoon Dog,’ has significant problems. The record indicates that the name could significantly mislead consumers about the animal’s relationship to domestic dog.”

The FTC also allowed more labeling flexibility in its new rule, removing prescribed label and font sizes, which received much industry support. The rules will become effective in 180 days.