At the FTC's open meeting yesterday, the Commission reversed course, and voted to retain the Care Labeling Rule.  Last year, the FTC had proposed to repeal the rule, which had originally been promulgated in 1971. 

The rule requires manufacturers and importers of textile wearing apparel and certain other items to provide regular care instructions at the time such products are sold to purchasers through the use of care labels (or other methods permitted by the rule).  Specifically, the rule prohibits manufacturers and importers from:

  • Failing to disclose instructions which prescribe a regular care procedure necessary for the ordinary use and enjoyment of the product;
  • Failing to warn a purchaser when the product cannot be cleaned by any cleaning procedure, without being harmed;
  • Failing to warn a purchaser when any part of the prescribed regular care procedure, which a consumer or professional cleaner could reasonably be expected to use, would harm the product or others being cleaned with it;
  • Failing to provide regular care instructions and warnings, except as to piece goods, in a form that can be referred to by the consumer throughout the useful life of the product; and
  • Failing to possess, prior to sale, a reasonable basis for all regular care information disclosed to the purchaser.

Importantly, for marketers selling products online, this information must be disclosed prior to the sale of the product.  In addition, for products sold in-store, care labels must be able to be seen or easily found when the product is offered for sale to consumers; this means that, if consumers cannot easily find the label prior to sale, the care information must also be disclosed on the outside of the package or on a hang tag.

In connection with its vote to retain the rule, the FTC issued a statement, saying, "This was little support for the repeal of the rule.  The Commission will continue to consider ways to improve the Care Labeling Rule, but has determined it will not finalize the repeal as proposed."   

The Commissioners voted 5-0 to retain the rule.  In a statement, Commissioner Rohit Chopra said, "There are so many abuses that [small and independent businesses] are facing today and so many things they are looking to the Commission to act on.  Removing the required care labels on our clothing is just not one of them."