Etsy under fire over false advertising of cashmere

The Cashmere and Camel Hair Manufacturers Institute (CCMI) has filed a lawsuit against online retailer Etsy claiming false advertising of goods claiming to be 100 per cent cashmere.

The trade organisation's complaint – filed in the US District Court for the District of Massachusetts – alleges that Etsy is "conspiring" with its members to sell garments that it alleges are being falsely advertised and misrepresented as 100 per cent cashmere or cashmere when they are actually made of other materials.

They tend to be either 100 per cent acrylic, which CCMI notes is "a much less expensive, petroleum-based, and more flammable fibre, or are a blend of cheaper synthetic or man-made materials such polyester, nylon, or rayon, and minor percentages of wool."

A letter from CCMI to Joshua Silverman, Etsy's chief executive, notes that one of its representatives bought five items advertised as 100 per cent cashmere on Etsy in February 2022, and had them tested by an independent lab, concluding that none of them contained any cashmere at all.

"CCMI's position is that a consumer has the right to expect that garments advertised on Etsy as 100 per cent cashmere or cashmere will not be materially misrepresented in this way," said Fabio Garzena, CCMI's president.

When fake cashmere is sold "CCMI and its members, who make some of the finest cashmere products in the world, suffer real economic harm," he added.

Court documents also suggest that as of January 17, 2023, there were approximately 20,000 Etsy sellers with at least one active, non-digital listing that currently includes the word “cashmere” in the listing title, description, or seller tags.

The lawsuit represents another attempt to make online retail platforms liable for the actions of their third-party sellers – which has proved to be a massive challenge. Most attempts have been blocked as a result of the Communications Decency Act Section 230, originally designed to protect free speech, which shields online intermediaries from being held responsible for the actions of their users.

In December 2021, CCMI resolved a similar lawsuit against Amazon and CS Accessories avoiding the need for a trial that had been scheduled to commence in Boston.

As part of the resolution of the action, CS Accessories – the supplier of many of the disputed garments – agreed to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining it from advertising or selling garments of any kind falsely labelled as cashmere.

Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

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