Thursday, February 13, 2014

Success at the FTC Regarding Fiber Content Labeling

Agathon Associates is pleased to announce the success of client Hatco, maker of Stetson and Resistol hats and the largest producer of Western style ("cowboy") hats, in enlisting the aid of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") to clean up the market for Western style hats. In May Agathon Associates was approached by Hatco with a suspicion that competing hat-makers were mislabeling the fiber content of their products. Analyses at independent fiber testing laboratories, Modern Testing Services, LLC and K.D. Langley Fiber Services, confirmed that hats from four major producers were materially mislabeled as to fiber content.

In September Agathon Associates, on behalf of Hatco, wrote to the FTC:

"The U.S. market for Western style hats is rife with mislabeled products that defraud consumers, are a source of unfair competition for honest manufacturers and retailers, and are in violation of the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939. Wool felt hats, which lack the performance characteristics of fur felt hats, are being labeled in such a way as to cause consumers to believe they are buying fur felt hats worth four or five times what an appropriately labeled wool hat typically sells for. Such mislabeling has been confirmed by independent laboratories, is pervasive, and does not involve trace inadvertent contamination. The reputation of an iconic America product -- one that enjoys a large and growing domestic market as well as exports -- is threatened by mislabeled products. We ask the FTC to undertake specific, proportionate actions to educate the trade."
and requested a meeting in Washington to discuss Agathon's proposal that the FTC undertake education of the hat-making industry regarding the fiber content labeling requirement under the Wool Products Labeling Act of 1939.

Following that meeting with FTC staff in December, the FTC issued, last week, a staff opinion letter to Hatco, confirming that hats containing any wool must be label to disclose the wool content. Yesterday, the FTC posted on its blog Keep it under your hat, a reminder to the trade that the Wool Act and the FTC Rules require marketers to attach to every covered wool product a label that gives consumers four key pieces of information:

  • the percentage by weight of wool, recycled wool, or other fibers accounting for 5% or more of the product, and the aggregate of all other fibers;

  • the percentage of the total weight of the product that is made of non-fibrous matter;

  • the name – or RN number – of the manufacturer or other responsible company; and

  • the country where the wool product was processed or manufactured.

You can read the FTC blog post at click here

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