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Fake Cashmere Lands Popular Marketplace in Hot Water

The Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCMI) sued Etsy for its role in promoting the sale of fake cashmere products, similar to its previous legal battle with Amazon.

The global trade group, which represents manufacturers, distributors and retailers selling cashmere, on Dec. 30 filed a lawsuit claiming that Etsy is aiding, abetting and participating in the sale of falsely labeled apparel and accessories. CCMI said the platform has allowed its vendors to sell “huge quantities of counterfeit garments” advertised as 100-percent cashmere, when they’re produced from man-made or synthetic fibers like acrylic, polyester, nylon and rayon, as well as standard sheep’s wool.

Filed in Massachusetts, where CCMI is headquartered, the complaint applies to the promotion and sale of all faux cashmere products on the Etsy platform. The group alleges that Etsy violated both federal and state laws surrounding false and deceptive advertising, false designation of product origin, unfair competition, trademark dilution, and other transgressions against the IP of others.

Etsy routinely advertises false cashmere products via emails to shoppers, as well as through promotions such as banner ads and social media posts, it said. CCMI said it “repeatedly” purchased garments advertised through these channels over the past nine months and sent them to testing laboratories. The items were routinely identified as being made of either 100-percent acrylic or a blend of lesser fibers.

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Etsy also shirks responsibility for the sale of inauthentic products by claiming that, as a third-party marketplace, it does not physically possess the goods for sale or offer fulfillment services, CCMI said. “Etsy is the consumer’s point of contact at the retail level, and is earning enormous amounts of money from the sale of the falsely advertised Purported Cashmere Garments,” the complaint said. The platform is “well-positioned to ensure, and is capable of ensuring, the accurate advertising of these products, but is simply failing and refusing to do so.”

CCMI U.S. representative Jim Coleman told Sourcing Journal that the organization is “looking for Etsy to take responsible action to stop the proliferation and sale of fake cashmere goods on its various websites, both in the U.S. and abroad.” The marketplace should implement systems to prevent selling falsely described items, he said.

“We’re not looking to play the role of policeman where we have to monitor what they are selling and continuously issue complaints to them as we have done so far,” Coleman said. Some digitally native marketplaces have deflected liability through the Communications Decency Act, which has allowed them to claim that they are neutral platforms facilitating sales by independent parties and thus allowed counterfeits to flourish online, he said. “We’re hopeful that Etsy doesn’t stake that claim,” Coleman added. “They claim to be a responsible company. In our view only a sincere and successful effort to stop the sale of fake goods will prove that.”

The suit comes a year after CCMI took aim at Amazon. In December 2021, it said it had reached an out-of-court resolution with the e-commerce titan and one of its vendors, CS Accessories Inc., after challenging global sales of “100-percent cashmere” products found on the site. Independent testing found that CS Accessories products, which were marketed under the brand name City Scarf, were made with synthetic materials.

As a part of the resolution CS Accessories agreed to a final judgment stopping it from advertising or selling garments of any kind falsely labeled as cashmere. Today, the City Scarf store on Amazon appears to be defunct, with zero products listed for sale. Coleman said CCMI has an ongoing collaboration with Amazon to “protect the interests of cashmere.”

Etsy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile, cashmere continues to be a source of contention for some in fashion. Victoria’s Secret recently banned the use of the animal fiber after a PETA investigation uncovered what appeared to be rampant animal abuse in China and Mongolia.