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FTC Consumer Alert

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Buying Cashmere? Avoid Pulled Wool

Cashmere. The very word evokes images of luxury, warmth and softness. The ultra-fine wool, from the undercoat of the Cashmere (or Kashmir) goat, is indeed a premium fiber - one that generally costs a good deal more than mere sheep's wool.

If you're shopping for a gift of cashmere this holiday season, do yourself a favor - and the recipient, too. Read the label to make sure you're both getting what you're paying for.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, all wool products must have a label that reflects the true fiber content of the item. For example, if a product is made of wool - and only wool - the label can say 100% Wool or All Wool. If the product contains a specialty wool - such as cashmere, camel hair, mohair, alpaca, llama, or vicuna - it can be labeled with the name and percentage of the speciality fiber. If a product is made of cashmere only, it can be labeled as 100% Cashmere or All Cashmere. But if an item, say a sweater or a pair of gloves, contains cashmere mixed with sheep's wool, the label must disclose both fibers accurately, such as 80% Wool, 20% Cashmere.

Products marketed as pashmina have become very popular, yet many consumers aren't sure just what pashmina is. Some manufacturers use the term to describe an ultrafine cashmere fiber; others use it to describe a blend of cashmere and silk. An Indian word for cashmere, pashmina is not a legally recognized labeling term. In fact, the FTC says, pashmina is not a fiber separate or distinct from the cashmere fiber.

The fiber content of a shawl, scarf or other item marketed as pashmina must be disclosed accurately because it is a wool product. For example, a pashmina stole that is a blend of cashmere and silk might be labeled 50% Cashmere, 50% Silk or 70% Cashmere, 30% Silk, depending on the actual cashmere and silk content. If the item contains only cashmere, it should be labeled 100% Cashmere or All Cashmere.

In addition to the item's fiber content, the FTC says labels on wool products also must include the country of origin, the name of the manufacturer or marketer, and a safe cleaning method.

The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint or to get free information on consumer issues, visit www.ftc.gov or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, identity theft, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad.

December 2000
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