On July 30, 2013 the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced proposed changes to the labeling rules for textile apparel and certain piece goods. The FTC will conduct a public roundtable on October 1, 2013 and will accept comments on the issues until October 15. Requests to appear as a panelist at the roundtable must be received by Tuesday, September 3, 2013. One of the issues under discussion is how to clarify what a company must do in order to have a “reasonable basis” for the care instructions that appear on the label, as required by the FTC regulations. Companies that prepare care labels or sell goods containing care labels should review these FTC materials and consider participating.

The Care Labeling Rule in the FTC Regulations requires textile wearing apparel to carry a label that states the care needed for ordinary use. This label must cover drycleaning, washing, bleaching, drying and ironing of garments, and can use approved care symbols to disclose those instructions.

In September 2012, the FTC published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which proposed four amendments to the existing care labeling rules:

  1. to permit manufacturers and importers to provide a care instruction for professional wetcleaning on labels;
  2. to permit manufacturers and importers to use the symbol system set forth in either ASTM Standard D5489-07, “Standard Guide for Care Symbols for Care Instructions on Textile Products,” or ISO 3758:2005[E], “Textiles—Care labeling code using symbols”;
  3. to clarify what constitutes a reasonable basis for care instructions; and
  4. to update the definition of “dryclean” to reflect the current practices and technology.

For companies involved in drycleaning or wetcleaning operations or labeling, or desiring to use the ASTM care symbols, these issues can have direct impact. But all companies involved in care labeling are required to have a “reasonable basis” for the information in the label. For example, the FTC stated that it may consider examples testing an entire garment may or may not be needed in order to determine care instructions. The FTC states that it does not intend for any changes to “increase or decrease” the burden on industry in this area. Nonetheless, having clarity and certainty regarding what will be required by companies in order to support certain care statements can have broad impact.

The FTC received 87 comments in the September 2012 notice. After reviewing these comments, the FTC has now announced its decision to host a roundtable meeting on October 1, 2013, to hear further discussion on the changes it has proposed. The roundtable will be free and open to the public but the FTC says that registration is appreciated. The roundtable will take place from 9:15 a.m. until 3:45 p.m., at the FTC’s satellite building conference center, located at 601 New Jersey Avenue NW, Washington DC. Registration information is in the announcement. Requests to participate as a panelist at the roundtable must be received by September 3, 2013.

The FTC has also explained that it will accept a further round of comments, on anything regarding the agenda topics, the issues discussed at the roundtable, or the issues raised in the comments already submitted. Any such further comments are due at the FTC by October 15, 2013.