With Tuesday’s filing with the Federal Trade Commission, the Humane Society of the U.S. is trying to end what it claims is an industrywide problem of false advertising and mislabeling of products as containing faux fur that actually are made with real fur.
Through an enforcement petition, the group has asked the FTC to take action against 17 retailers including Amazon, Neiman Marcus, Kohl’s, Nordstrom, Rue La La and others. Combined, these companies sold 37 different styles of apparel and accessories from 32 brands that were advertised or labeled as “faux fur,” even though they were allegedly made with fur from raccoons, dogs, rabbits and coyotes.
In what is its largest collection of misrepresentations, the Humane Society cited alleged violations that occurred between December 2011 and December 2015. The other 12 retailers referenced in the filings were A-List/Kitson, Barneys New York, Belk, Bluefly, Century 21, Eminent/Revolve, Gilt, Mia Belle Baby, Ross Stores, Searle and Stein Mart. Executives at the majority of these stores did not respond to requests for comment Tuesday. A Neiman’s spokeswoman declined comment, as did Barneys executives.
A Nordstrom spokeswoman said, “We’ve always worked hard to be as accurate and clear as possible with our online copy for the thousands of products we sell. We’re disappointed that we missed the mark in these instances. In the several years since these products were sold on our sites, we’ve continued to enhance our processes to ensure that we provide correct information to our customers and now have implemented specific measures to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future.”
Canada Goose declined comment. In its case, Kitson misidentified on its site a children’s jacket that had a coyote trim hood. The actual label on the garment noted that and the Humane Society did as well.
Still, Pierre Grzybowski, research and enforcement manager of the Humane Society’s Fur-Free Campaign, said, “Consumers would be horrified to know they have been duped into purchasing animal fur when they thought they were buying a humane alternative. The FTC must crack down on this industrywide problem of misrepresentation that the HSUS has been uncovering and documenting year-after-year for a decade.”
In a phone interview Tuesday, he claimed to have purchased all of the items that were described and photographed in the “graphical summary” submitted to the FTC with the enforcement petition. An Ellen Tracy mid-length down coat with a detachable hood that was allegedly available on Amazon on Dec. 7, 2015, and a $712 Acquaverde faux fur coat that was sold on Revolveclothing.com on Nov. 11, 2015, are among those listed as allegedly mislabeled. Grzybowski insisted that all of the items included in the graph were sold as faux fur.
Executives at Ellen Tracy and Acquaverde did not respond to requests for comment.
Another item that was mentioned was an Elie Tahari men’s Steve jacket with a faux-fur trimmed hood allegedly sold on Barneys’ Warehouse site in June 2014.
The Humane Society claimed that Neiman’s and Eminent/Revolve are already under 20-year cease-and-desist orders from the FTC following a Humane Society petition that identified similar violations in 2011.
While the likelihood that any of the items referenced were still available through the aforementined retailers is close to nil, Grzybowski said each retailer can “turn over the documentation history for these items” to the FTC. The sale of outerwear, footwear, key chains, handbags and cardigans labeled as containing “faux fur” that includes animal fur is a violation of the Fur Products Labeling Act, The Federal Trade Commission Act and, in some cases, a violation of outstanding cease-and-desist orders already issued by the agency, according to the Humane Society. Violations can carry penalties of up to one year in prison and/or fines of up to $40,000, the group said.
This latest submission is the fourth multi-retail one since 2007, Grzybowski said. The Humane Society previously sought FTC action on the problem in March 2007, April 2008, November 2011, July 2014 and April 2015.
“Hopefully, the FTC will look at the breadth and depth of each violation and will decide to put a much-needed stop to all this,” he said. “The only thing that is going to end the sale of faux fur that is actually fur is if the FTC starts handing out $40,000 fines or even a jail sentence. Clearly, what is in place is not working.”