What’s the News?

The Federal Trade Commission has a reached a settlement agreement with several major retailers, including Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, and JCPenney, over claims that they improperly labeled and advertised rayon products as being made of bamboo. According to the FTC, rayon—a chemically manufactured fiber that is sometimes created from bamboo—is not the same as bamboo, making the companies’ “bamboo” claims improper. In addition to injunctive relief, the companies have agreed to pay over $1 million dollars under the settlement.

More on the Dispute

Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, and JCPenney offer a number of products described in their advertising and labeling as being made of “bamboo” or “bamboo fiber,” including clothing, blankets, towels, and more. For example, Nordstrom offers a “Bamboo Hooded Jumpsuit” and Bed, Bath & Beyond sells “Bamboo Blend Napkins.” According to the FTC, however, many of these products are made of rayon instead of bamboo.

Rayon is a chemically manufactured textile made of regenerated cellulose fiber. A number of fibers can be used to make rayon, including bamboo. As the FTC pointed out that, as far as the law is concerned, rayon—even when originating from bamboo—is not the same as “bamboo,” and cannot be labeled or advertised as such. Under the Textile Fiber Products Identification Act and its implementing regulations, manufactured textile products composed in whole or in part of regenerated cellulose fiber must be labeled by the generic fiber name recognized by the FTC—in this case, rayon. Thus, the FTC claimed, the retailers’ “bamboo” products had been labeled and advertised illegally.

Under the settlement agreements, the companies are prohibited from violating the Textile Act and Rules by failing to properly identify fiber content when labeling and advertising textiles containing manufactured fibers. In addition, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, and JCPenney agreed to pay $360,000, $500,000, and $290,000, respectively, in civil fines.

The Takeaway

Retailers should note that the FTC is focusing some attention on “bamboo” claims. In addition to those just discussed, the FTC brought a series of enforcement actions in 2009 and 2013, accusing major companies of making improper “bamboo” claims. The agency has also issued warning letters to dozens of companies over this issue. As such, all companies selling textile products should ensure compliance with the Textile Act and Rules, and should be particularly cautious before using “bamboo” in their advertising and labels. As Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, and JCPenney can attest, the price of non-compliance can be steep.