Today, the Seattle Times reports that Amazon.com officials admitted that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating their company over reports that many of their bamboo clothing items are not bamboo, but rayon, a type of polymer. Though the Seattle-based internet superstore was quick to deny any wrongdoing, those with slightly longer memories may be hearing what's becoming a familiar tune as the company has been investigated by the FTC before and has also been sued privately over trade law infringement.
In the most recent case, Amazon is one of 78 companies nationwide including Bed, Bath & Beyond, Wal-Mart and The Gap, that received letters in February stating that they may be in violation of U.S. trade law. The letter reminds the companies that just because some of the cheap plastic used to make the clothes may have a bit of bamboo cellulose in it, it doesn't change the fact that it's still cheap plastic.
"Rayon, even if manufactured using cellulose from bamboo, must be described using an appropriate term recognized under the FTC's Textile Rules," reads the letter. "Failing to properly label and advertise textiles misleads consumers and runs afoul of both the Textile Rules and the FTC Act."
In 2001, the FTC also investigated Amazon. Then, the focus was whether the company was keeping customers' personal information on file, despite claiming elsewhere on the website that they would never do such a thing.
The FTC, eventually dropped the charges, but only after the site changed its disclosures and shut down its tracking service zBubbles.
"Amazon.com's practices were likely deceptive in violation of Section 5 of the FTC act," reads the 2001 letter. "Nevertheless, we have decided not to recommend enforcement action at this time."
The company was also sued by online bookstore BookLocker.com, in 2008, after the site attempted to force all "print-on-demand" publishers to use its own "BookSurge" subsidiary in order to sell their books.
Amazon eventually settled the suit in January of this year for $300,000 and agreed to let other companies use their individual print-to-order services on the site.
Mitch Katz, a spokesman with the FTC, tells the Daily Weekly that he can't comment on the current bamboozling case. But he was quick to provide the previous case info, and, if the rest of his agency is as thorough as he is, one gets the hint that Amazon will be including photos of the actual bamboo stalks that went into each pair of socks it sells before long.