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December 02, 2013

Buyer Beware: Kohl’s Selling Real Fur Advertised as Faux

Today is Cyber Monday, well-known for being one of the biggest online shopping days of the year – coming on the heels of the largest in-store shopping day, known popularly as “Black Friday.”

But whether we purchase goods online, in-store or elsewhere, we should be paying attention to more than just price. We should be paying attention to core values, including animal protection values observed or discounted in the production and manufacturing processes. Whether it’s considering the source of the food we eat for a holiday dinner, the household products we purchase, or what gifts we buy for loved ones, we vote for or against cruelty with our dollars – even if the production practices occur hundreds or thousands of miles away.

Kohl's Handbags
Pierre Grzybowski/The HSUS
Handbags being sold on Kohls.com were advertised as
“faux-fur,” but were actually made with real fur.

The HSUS urges every consumer to keep fur off of any purchasing list. But consumers who want to stay away from fur have to take special precautions. Today, The HSUS is issuing an important consumer warning to all Kohl’s shoppers after confirming that accessories being sold on Kohls.com as “faux-fur” are actually made with real rabbit fur.

Our investigators purchased several different styles of Nicole Lee handbags from Kohls.com in October and November that were prominently advertised as having “faux-fur” trim. After review, the handbags were discovered to be trimmed with animal fur, and laboratory testing determined the fur to be from a rabbit. Selling animal fur as “faux fur” is a violation of the Federal Trade Commission Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in commerce, and carries a civil penalty of up to $16,000 per violation.

Kohl’s has known of our general concerns about the company’s fur policies, with The HSUS filing two shareholder proposals over the last two years, effectively putting the company executives on alert for the very problems we identified in this investigation. Instead of implementing a forward-looking policy that would move the company away from fur and also catch false advertising problems, the company hedged and was vague with consumers about its fur sales.

Year after year, The HSUS exposes retailers selling real animal fur – from rabbits, raccoon dogs and others – as “faux fur.” We even recently found domestic dog fur for sale by a New York retailer. Persistent misrepresentation of animal fur led to the passage of the federal Truth in Fur Labeling Act and earlier this year the Federal Trade Commission handed down an enforcement action against major retailers, most notably Neiman Marcus. These companies are not fulfilling their responsibilities under the law to prevent the deception of their customers.

With numerous retailers being named in petitions filed before the FTC, in addition to a lawsuit being filed before the D.C. Superior Court and national news outlets giving these stories in-depth coverage, one has to wonder why retailers, like Kohl’s, refuse to adopt clear fur-free policies and implement more robust quality control programs.

The decision to go fur-free is common sense for many department stores and designers, including JCPenney, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole and John Bartlett, which have chosen to not dupe consumers into buying something as frivolous and unnecessary as animal fur. Kohl’s should join that effort, and until it does, let the buyer beware.

Ask Kohl's to adopt a fur-free policy »

*Images of the handbags and advertisements are available here.
*The HSUS’ “Field Guide to Telling Animal Fur from Fake Fur” is available online here.

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