Byline: Joanna Ramey

WASHINGTON — While decrying the tactics of the Federal Trade Commission as “burdensome” and “overbearing,” Jessica McClintock Inc. has agreed to pay $66,000 to settle FTC charges that the company violated federal care label regulations.
The agency charged the care labels weren’t specific enough to keep garments from being damaged at the dry cleaner.
This is only the third time an apparel maker has been found in violation of the Care Labeling Rule, enacted in 1971, and may signal a renewed push in the FTC’s enforcement of the regulation.
According to Constance Vecellio, FTC staff attorney in charge of care labeling enforcement, the agency has other investigations of apparel makers under way. Vecellio said that until recent years, the FTC had focused more attention on educating the industry about federal care label regulations, following a 1984 revision of the 1971 rule.
In a statement firing back at the agency, which announced the settlement Wednesday, the San Francisco-based McClintock company issued a general grievance: “President Clinton, in his State of the Union Address, stated that he supported a leaner not meaner government.”
Turning to the specific action against it, the company, known for its romantic special occasion dresses, asserted that it “produces millions of quality garments every year. The Federal Trade Commission learned that a dozen or so garments over the past five years experienced damage on trims when the garments were dry-cleaned.”
The company pointed out that it always provides refunds for damaged garments, calling this return policy “the ultimate consumer protection, but one which the FTC chose to ignore in lieu of its microscopic review of our historical care label practices.
“For whatever reason, the FTC…began a comprehensive campaign requiring JMC to exhume records many years old in the FTC’s attempt to find discrepancies in JMC’s care label practices,” the statement continued.”JMC fully complied with all FTC requests, but at a certain point found the FTC strategy to be burdensome and time-consuming, resulting in JMC’s agreeing to settle this matter.”
The 1984 revision of the Care Labeling Rule essentially spells out in eight detailed pages the terminology and requirements for care labels, which are the responsibility of manufacturers and importers to affix to a garment.
The first and only other apparel care labeling case ever filed involved a maker of women’s imitation suede coats that peeled when dry-cleaned. The manufacturer, Mod-Maid Inc., New York, in 1980 paid a $25,000 fine to settle the case.
As in the other cases, the FTC complaint filed against McClintock said the manufacturer lacked specificity on care labels designating garments to be dry-cleaned.
“In numerous instances the care procedure that was recommended on the care label resulted in damage to sequins, beads, or other trim, in dye bleeding from one portion of the garment to another, in damage to velvet, or in other damage to the garment,” the FTC said.
FTC attorney Vecellio said typically in dry-cleaning labeling cases the specificity that’s lacking usually involves failure to mention whether a garment should undergo a short dry-cleaning cycle to avoid overexposure to solvents or the level of heat a garment should be subjected to.
For its part, McClintock said it hopes the FTC will adopt more understandable care regulations. — Fairchild News Service