According to complaints filed by the Department of Justice in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, the retailers violated the federal Textile Fiber Products Identification Act and FTC rules by continuing to sell products marketed as containing bamboo fiber when they were actually made from rayon, despite receiving warning letters in 2010.
While the cellulose-based fiber may be manufactured from many different sources, including bamboo, the resulting textile must be identified in labeling and advertising as rayon (or viscose).
“It’s misleading to call bamboo that has been chemically processed into rayon simply ‘bamboo,’” said Jessica Rich, director of the bureau of consumer protection. “With consumers in the midst of their holiday shopping, it’s important for them to know that textiles marketed as environmentally friendly alternatives may not be as ‘green’ as they were led to believe.”
Now, Nordstrom and J.C. Penney will pay $360,000 and 290,000 respectively, Bed Bath & Beyond will shell out $500,000 and Backcountry will pay $150,000 to settle.
Some of the mislabeled items include “Aden + Anais Bamboo 3-Pack Muslin Swaddles,” sold at Bed Bath & Beyond stores and its subsidiary BuyBuy Baby, and “Gypsy 05 Bamboo Racerback Hi-Lo Dress” at Nordstrom. At J.C. Penney, meanwhile, “Muk Luks 4-pk Men’s Bamboo Socks” were also misbranded as having antimicrobial properties.
The FTC also said that it’s sending letters to other retailers, urging them to check their inventories and ensure rayon textile products are properly labeled as such.
In 2013, Amazon, Leon Max, Macy’s and Sears Holdings had to pay a total of $1.26 million to settle similar allegations.