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September 25, 2009

Fur False Advertising Case to Proceed

Court orders case to proceed against major retailers

The Humane Society of the United States

The District of Columbia Superior Court issued a long-awaited ruling [see PDF] clearing the way for a lawsuit accusing several of the nation's largest retailers—including Lord & Taylor, Macy's, Neiman Marcus, and Saks Fifth Avenue—of engaging in false advertising and mislabeling of fur garments.

The suit was filed in 2008 by The Humane Society of the United States, arguing that these deceptive practices mislead consumers into unknowingly purchasing animal fur products and increase consumer confusion over the type and origin of fur used on clothing

"Consumers have a right to know what they're buying, but many major retailers keep selling 'faux fur' jackets that turn out to be real animal fur," said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation for The HSUS. "Macy's, Saks, Neiman Marcus and Lord & Taylor just don't seem to care if consumers are deceived, even though real fur is something many consumers are determined to avoid."

Over the last three years, The HSUS has identified dozens of falsely advertised or falsely labeled fur garments across the retail industry. Although many of these garments were advertised or labeled as "faux fur," they were often fur from raccoon dogs, a member of the canine family native to parts of Asia, who have been documented to be skinned alive in China.

The lawsuit, filed under the D.C. Consumer Protection Procedures Act, alleges that the companies "misrepresent" the characteristics of the fur-trimmed garments by (1) advertising and labeling products as "faux fur," when they are, in fact, derived from real animal fur or (2) advertising and labeling products as common raccoon, fox or rabbit fur when they are, in fact, made from the wholly distinct species of raccoon dog—a member of the dog family. The complaint also alleges violations of the federal Fur Products Labeling Act and Federal Trade Commission Act, which also prohibit the false advertising and mislabeling of any fur product.

Examples of Defendants' Deceptive Ads and Labels

  • In December 2008, Lord & Taylor sold jackets labeled as "polyester" fur at its retail store in Kensington, Md. Testing found that this purportedly faux fur garment was actually made from real raccoon dog and rabbit. 
  • Macy's—through its retail division, Bloomingdale's—advertised and sold a "faux fur" jacket on its online store in 2007 and again in 2008. However, both of these jackets contained animal fur.
  • In November 2008, Neiman Marcus sold a coat on its Web site, that although advertised as "faux fur," was genuine rabbit fur. Neiman Marcus also sold a jacket labeled as fake "polyester" fur at its retail store in McLean, Va. Testing later found this jacket to be made from real raccoon dog.
  • In December 2007, Saks Fifth Avenue advertised and sold a "faux fur" jacket through its online store that was later determined to be genuine rabbit fur.

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