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ASA issues enforcement notice on misleading "faux fur" claims

Lauretta Roberts
18 January 2019

Retailers and brands have been advised they must take immediate action to ensure they are not falsely representing real fur items as faux fur in their advertising, e-stores and on social media.

Failure to do so could lead to sanctions being applied said the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP), which is part of the Advertising Standards Authority.

CAP has issued an Enforcement Notice on Misleading ‘Faux Fur’ Claims in Clothes and Accessories which is applicable to all relevant advertisers in the UK across all media, including online and social media.

The move comes following the controversy of some items advertised as faux fur on e-commerce sites, such as Boohoo, having been found to contain real fur.

The Enforcement Notice requires companies to take immediate action to ensure their advertising complies. If the CAP Compliance function continues to see problems in this area after 11 February 2019, it will sanction the companies involved. Where advertisers are unwilling to comply, these sanctions may ultimately include referral to the ASA system’s legal backstop for misleading advertising; Trading Standards.

CAP has issued guidance to help brands and retailers ensure that faux fur provided by their suppliers does not contain any animal fur:

The Guidance is as follows:

  • - Don’t assume that the low cost of the product from a supplier is a good indicator that the product does not contain animal fur. Current market conditions means that animal fur is not necessarily more expensive than faux fur.
  • - Test the faux fur products yourself before putting them on sale – if they are repeat orders, make sure to test a sample from each batch.
  • - Laboratory testing is the best method to differentiate between real and faux fur but if this is not feasible, there’s a three-step approach that may help:

1)    Check the base of the fur – the base of faux fur will have a mesh or threaded fabric from where the “hairs” emerge; animal fur will have a base of leather or skin.

2)    Check the tips of the hair – if it tapers as opposed to being blunt, it’s likely to be real fur, although sometimes animal fur has been sheared or cut to a uniform length.

3)    The burn test – cut off some of the fur and burn it safely. Real fur singes and smells like burnt human hair while faux fur melts and smells like burnt plastic.

  • - Don’t use suppliers that make repeated mistakes in supplying real fur instead of the claimed "faux fur" products.

Chief Executive of the Advertising Standards Authority, Guy Parker, said: “Consumers shouldn’t be misled into buying a faux fur product in good conscience only for it to turn out to be made from a real animal.  That’s not just misleading, it can also be deeply upsetting.”

Director of the Committees of Advertising Practice, Shahriar Coupal, added: “Misleading advertising is always unfair to consumers and to businesses that compete fairly for people’s custom. Our enforcement notice gives responsible businesses the tools to ensure that ads for ‘faux fur’ products don’t mislead and are marketed responsibly. For companies that continue to mislead, we won’t hesitate to apply sanctions, including referral to our Trading Standards backstop.”

The move was welcomed by Humane Society International UK's Director Claire Bass, whose organisation uncovered the sale of a jumper on Boohoo's site that was advertised as having faux fur pom-pom embellishments, but which was found to contain animal fur, most likely rabbit. The problem, however, is believed to be widespread as real fur is cheaper to procure in some markets than the manufacture of faux fur.

The boohoo jumper labelled as faux fur

"We welcome the ASA’s firm action to ban companies from falsely advertising real fur as faux. HSI UK’s investigations have shown time and time again a shocking amount of fake faux fur for sale in Britain, so we are delighted that the ASA is upholding our complaint and calling on retailers to take full responsibility to get their house in order," Bass said.

"Fur is a product of animal suffering that most British consumers want nothing to do with, and they have the right to be confident that when they buy faux fur they are not being duped into buying the exact animal cruelty they are trying to avoid. The ASA’s rulings make it clear that it is companies’ responsibility, whether high-street store or online marketplace, to ensure that their customers are not being misled. Reducing the amount of real fur masquerading as fake fur on UK markets is important progress in our #FurFreeBritain campaign, until we reach our ultimate goal of a UK fur sales ban to properly protect both shoppers and animals from the cruel fur trade.”

Fur farming has been banned in the UK since 2000 and some furs are banned from sale such as domestic dog and cat and seal fur. Last year MPs debated a ban on the sale of all fur in the UK, which was met with widespread support from politicians of all parties, however the government has yet to take action.

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