FTC Charges Four Major Retailers for Selling Rayon Products as Bamboo

FTC Charges Four Major Retailers for Selling Rayon Products as Bamboo
Image: Pixabay
December 9, 2015

Following multiple violations, several large retailers have been banned from mislabeling and advertising rayon products as made of bamboo.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week filed complaints and proposed court orders against Bed Bath & Beyond, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney and Backcountry.com for continuing to mislabel the products even after they were sent warning letters outlining their violations. Under the settlement agreements, the companies will pay civil penalties totaling $1.3 million.

Consumers might consider buying fabric products made from bamboo because of the plant's earth-friendly qualities. It grows easily, without water or pesticides and is incredibly strong and durable. Bamboo makes for great wood products, like floors and furniture, but it isn't particularly suited for soft products like sheets or clothing.

The soft bamboo fabrics on the market are actually rayon, which is made using toxic, pollution-causing chemicals. When bamboo is used to make rayon, the finished product contains nothing of the original plant, including its antibacterial properties.

Bed, Bath & Beyond and its subsidiary Buy Buy Baby sold dozens of bamboo textiles including baby swaddles and napkins. Nordstrom sold similar products, as well as clothing like dresses and T-shirts. J.C. Penny and Backcountry.com also sold clothing, including men's socks which they said gave the products antimicrobial properties.

The FTC claims that the companies broke the law by continuing to misrepresent or mislabel rayon products as bamboo, despite receiving warning letters from the agency in 2010 and synopsis of previous litigated cases against marketers for deceptively labeling rayon products as bamboo.