WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – If in recent years you bought a product from Walmart of Kohls that you thought was bamboo and good for the environment, you might be saying “shoot.”
The U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday fined both stores because they violated federal law and sold you something made of rayon but told you it was cut from a bamboo forest.
The violation of the Textile Fiber Identification Act will cost Kohl’s $3 million and Walmart $2.5 million, the Justice Department and FTC announced in a joint release. The stores’ misleading practices date back at least to 2015 and suggest several years before that, the release said.
“The complaints also alleged that Walmart and Kohl’s made deceptive claims that their products supposedly made of bamboo were environmentally friendly, and that Kohl’s further claimed such products were produced free of harmful chemicals,” the release said.
But in fact, the production of rayon requires toxic chemicals and leads to the emission of hazardous pollutants, the release said. Kohl’s and Walmart had done this even though they received letters in 2010 warning them that they were advertising improperly.
In addition to the penalties the stores must pay, the orders by the two agencies bar them from making misleading or unsubstantiated claims and generally bars the stores from deceptive advertising practices related to textiles. The companies also must meet obligations for recordkeeping, certification and compliance.
“Consumers should be able to trust retailers’ representations about the materials from which their clothes and linens are made,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General Arun G. Rao, head of the Justice Department’s Consumer Protection Branch, said in the release.
“False environmental claims harm both consumers and honest businesses, and companies that greenwash can expect to pay a price,” Director Samuel Levine of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said.
There was no immediate comment from either of the retailers.