The Humane Society of the U.S. has filed a legal petition with the Federal Trade Commission against 11 retailers for alleged false advertising and mislabeling of fur-trimmed products.

This story first appeared in the November 23, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

The retailers advertised various items as being made with “faux” fur, even though the products contain real animal fur, the Humane Society charged.

“There is an epidemic of false advertising in the fur industry,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation for the HSUS. “Consumers have a right to know what they’re buying, but many major retailers just don’t seem to care if consumers are deceived, even though real fur is something many consumers are determined to avoid.”

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The petition names Dillard’s, Neiman Marcus, Barneys, Beyond the Rack, ShopBop, Dr. Jays, Revolve Clothing, Gilt Groupe, Ssense, Summit Sports and Yoox, each of which the Humane Society claims falsely advertised jackets, cardigans, shoes or other products as containing faux fur. The organization said independent laboratory testing confirmed that the products contain real animal fur.

Attempts were made to contact all the retailers in question.

A spokeswoman for Barneys said, “We recently became aware of a single instance where an item made of fur was inadvertently referred to as faux fur in the listing on our Web site. Barneys immediately corrected the error when it was brought to our attention prior to the filing of the petition by the Humane Society. Barneys would never intentionally mislabel or misclassify any items that we sell.”

A spokeswoman for Beyond the Rack had no comment.

The petition alleges that the practices of these retailers mislead consumers into unknowingly purchasing animal-fur products, increased consumer confusion over the type and origin of fur that is used on clothing and accessories, and violated the federal Fur Products Labeling Act. The Fur Products Labeling Act requires that animal-fur products be labeled with the name of the species used, the manufacturer and country of origin, and it prohibits the sale and advertising of fur products that have been falsely or deceptively advertised.

Violations of the Fur Products Labeling Act can carry up to a $5,000 fine and up to a year in prison. The FTC is tasked with enforcing the Fur Products Labeling Act and protecting consumers from deception.

Last year, the Truth in Fur Labeling Act was enacted to strengthen the Fur Products Labeling Act and close a loophole that allowed some fur-trimmed garments to be sold without labels. The new law is aimed at preventing false advertising by requiring retailers to affix clear labels to the garments.