WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission said four companies, including Nordstrom Inc. and J.C. Penney Co. Inc., have agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $1.3 million for falsely labeling rayon textiles as “Made of Bamboo.”
Under complaints and proposed court orders settling the FTC charges, Nordstrom will pay $360,000; J.C. Penney will pay $290,000; Bed, Bath & Beyond will pay $500,000, and Backcountry.com will pay $150,000 for alleged violations of the law and the agency’s textile rules.
The FTC voted 4 to 0 in approving the complaints and proposed civil penalty orders, which were filed by the Department of Justice in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia on Wednesday. Civil penalty orders have the force of law when signed by the District Court judge, the FTC said.
“It’s misleading to call bamboo that has been chemically processed into rayon simply ‘bamboo,’” said Jessica Rich, director of the Bureau of Consumer Protection at the FTC. “With consumers in the midst of their holiday shopping, it’s important for them to know that textiles marketed as environmentally friendly alternatives may not be as ‘green’ as they were led to believe.”
The complaints alleged the four companies continued “misrepresenting” or “mislabeling’ rayon products as “bamboo” despite receiving warning letters from the FTC dating back to 2010 and a synopsis the FTC provided outlining previous cases that went to litigation against marketers accused of deceptively labeling products.
The FTC said the four companies continued selling the products “despite knowing that doing so was illegal and could subject them to civil penalties.”
Nordstrom sold a falsely labeled “Gypsy 05 Bamboo Racerback Hi-Lo Dress” and a “Degree Six Clothing Bamboo Long Sleeve Tee” online and in its stores, the FTC said.
Penney’s sold several “bamboo” products in its stores and online, including “Muk Luks 4-pk Men’s Bamboo Socks.” It also falsely claimed “bamboo” gave the products antimicrobial properties, according to the FTC.
Backcountry.com sold “bamboo” textiles such as a men’s crew sock and also made antimicrobial claims for its products. Among the mislabeled items sold by Bed, Bath & Beyond were “dozens” of muslin swaddles and blend napkins, the FTC said.
The proposed orders prohibit the companies from violating the FTC’s Textile Act by “failing to properly identify the fiber content when labeling and advertising any textiles containing manufactured fibers.”
The FTC said it also sent letters to the four companies to “help protect consumers from deceptive ‘bamboo’ claims…by imploring retailers to check their own inventories and ensure proper labeling and advertising of rayon textile products.”