FTC Settlement Bars Seller's Deceptive 'Biodegradable' Claims

A retailer of rayon towels will be barred from making false claims that mislead consumers into thinking that its products are "biodegradable," under a proposed settlement with the Federal Trade Commission.

The settlement with Dyna-E International and its owner George Wheeler resolves the third administrative complaint the Commission issued earlier this year against companies that made false biodegradability claims. The Dyna-E International complaint charged the company with making false claims that its Lightload brand compressed dry towels are biodegradable.

In June, the FTC settled similar cases against Kmart Corp. and Tender Corp., as part of a broad effort to ensure that environmental marketing is truthful and based on solid evidence. Since 1992, the FTC’s “Green Guides” have advised marketers that to make unqualified biodegradable claims, they must have scientific evidence that their product will completely decompose within a reasonably short period of time under customary methods of disposal. In all three complaints, the FTC alleged that the companies’ products typically are disposed in landfills, incinerators, or recycling facilities, where it is impossible for these products to biodegrade within a reasonably short time.

Like Kmart and Tender, Dyna-E and Wheeler will be barred from making deceptive “biodegradable” product claims and required to support all other environmental product claims with competent and reliable evidence.