Animal pelts were one of the first forms of human clothing. As modern societies developed, fur gained in importance and, in many societies, access to fur became increasingly rare, reserved for either the ruling elite or wealthy segments of society. While fur continues to carry a prestige, and price, that is arguably unparalleled by other materials, in the last thirty years there has been a cultural backlash in some groups to the use of fur based largely upon controversies surrounding how fur is harvesting from animals at some fur farms.
From a legal standpoint, with the exception of fur derived from endangered species or common domesticated animals, there are few prohibitions against selling clothing or household items composed of fur. United States law focuses almost entirely on ensuring that consumers are apprised of the type of fur products that they purchase, where they come from, and who manufactured of the product.
The cost of a fur coat advertised by a national department store.1
Number of species identified by the Federal Trade Commission in its Fur Products Name Guide.2
The number of petitions to Congress and the Federal Trade Commission filed by the Humane Society of America alleging that retailers mislabeled fur products.
If you sell fur (or faux fur) products you should consider the following guidelines to reduce litigation and regulatory risks:
- Consider Obtaining a Separate Guarantee. The Fur Products Labeling Act creates a safe harbor that protects retailers if they inadvertently sell misbranded fur products. Pursuant to the Act, a retailer can obtain a “guaranty” from a manufacturer or distributor in the United States which states that specific fur products are not misbranded. Such guarantees can be incorporated into the invoice or other documentation provided to the retailer, and inoculate the retailer from regulatory liability caused by a manufacturer or distributors’ mistakes.
- Consider Requesting a Continuing Guarantee. The Act also permits manufacturers and distributors to simplify the guarantee process by filing a “continuing guarantee” with the Federal Trade Commission. A continuing guarantee refers to a standing guarantee that a manufacturer or distributor makes to all potential purchasers of its fur products. By filing such a guarantee a manufacturer or distributor can avoid the administrative issues posed by providing each of its retail clients with one, or more, separate guarantees.
- Respond to Inquiries. If you receive an inquiry from a consumer, competitor, or trade association that questions the accuracy of the label of a fur product, consider asking the product’s distributor or manufacturer to re-verify the accuracy of the label.
- Faux Fur. Although many retailers focus their compliance efforts on verifying that products that they know contain fur comply with the specific requirements of the Fur Products Labeling Act, almost all recent investigations brought by the Federal Trade Commission have focused on products that are marked “faux fur,” but, in fact, contain real fur. As a result, retailers should consider allocating resources to verifying vendors’ descriptions of “faux fur” products as well as vendors’ descriptions of real fur products.