Neiman Marcus has agreed to pay $25,000 to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) after a D.C. court found that the retailer breached consumer protection laws by falsely claiming that its real fur coats were made from faux fur.
HSUS filed suit in 2007 after it discovered that allegedly faux coats being sold at Neiman and several other high-end retailers actually contained raccoon dog fur. Additional defendants included Lord & Taylor, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Macys. The coats were sold under the brand names Burberry, Andrew Marc, Marc New York, Preston & York, Aqua, Ramosport and Adam & Eve.
The courts ruling bars the retailer from misrepresenting or falsely advertising the contents of fur coats in the future.
Consumers were fooled by those ads, HSUS attorney Ralph Henry told the Dallas Morning News. Now by virtue of this lawsuit, theyll know what the coat contains.
According to HSUS, raccoon dog fur is the most commonly misrepresented fur in the U.S. The fur is routinely mislabeled or not labeled at all leading animal-friendly consumers to unwittingly walk around with a dead animal around their torso. HSUS-sponsored test results have revealed that coats purportedly made of fox and raccoon actually contained raccoon dog fur.
In its complaint, HSUS noted that consumer surveys show that consumers consider animal welfare when making purchasing decisions and are often willing to switch to animal-free products. For example, according to recently published Gallup poll data, a sizeable and significant percentage of Americans find that buying or wearing animal fur is morally wrong.
Raccoon dogs, native to Asia, are part of the same family that includes domesticated dogs. Despite their raccoon-like faces, they are not related to that North American mammal. The raccoon dog has a decidedly tougher life than most American dogs, however; the animal is routinely isolated on Chinese fur operations in tiny metal cages before being clubbed, slammed to the ground, or skinned alive, according to HSUS.
HSUS took a hard line throughout the litigation, calling the defendants the worst of the worst and accusing them of misleading their customers. A hardcore group of heartless holdouts continues to peddle raccoon dog coats to unsuspecting consumers, said Jonathan Lovvorn, HSUSs chief counsel for animal protection litigation, when the suit was filed.
Saks, which settled out of court last week, agreed to repay the $6,500 spent by HSUS to buy and test coats. Like Neiman Marcus, Saks agreed to more stringent labeling requirements, and also pledged to support legislation pending in Congress aimed at requiring labeling on all coats made of real fur. The Truth in Fur Labeling Act, introduced last year, would close a loophole exempting coats under $150 from fur-related labeling requirements.
Lord & Taylor and Andrew Marc, the manufacturer, settled last year. As part of its settlement, Lord & Taylor agreed to stop selling raccoon dog garments altogether. HSUSs case against Macys is ongoing.