Senators Call On FTC To Do Something About Misleading Fashion Sites

Site vs. reality, reflected in actual orders placed by CBS DFW reporter Cristin Severance  (photo: CBS DFW)

Site vs. reality, reflected in actual orders placed by CBS DFW reporter Cristin Severance (photo: CBS DFW)

It seems that someone in the offices of Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) or Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), or perhaps both senators, has either ordered clothing from a misleading China-based site or read Buzzfeed recently. Both senators announced today that they’ve sent a letter to Federal Trade Commission chair Edith Ramirez, urging the FTC to take action against sites that advertise great deals and don’t deliver what customers expected.

We’ve discussed these sites before: operating under a wide variety of names, they use photos of fashionable clothing and low prices to draw customers, then ship something that sort of resembles that item, sometimes taking so long to ship from China that customers miss their two-month window to dispute charges on their credit cards. Shoppers often find their way to the sites through Facebook ads, and Facebook has promised to maybe do something about it.

“These sites are based in China, so we have no consumer protections there,” you might say. The Senators’ letter points out that the FTC and China’s consumer protection agency, the State Administration for Industry & Commerce, have a memorandum of understanding outlining ways that they might cooperate in the future. True, the memo is more about discussing consumer protection laws and holding symposia, and less about day-to-day consumer protection and shutting down websites, but it’s more than the customers holding tiny dress-shaped sacks have.

“As you [Commissioner Ramirez] investigate this matter, we urge the FTC to work with its counterparts to help ensure these fraudulent websites are promptly dismantled if they cannot commit to being truthful and accurate about the products they sell,” the senators wrote.

Sen. Blumenthal is the ranking Democrat on the Senate’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security, and has an interest in consumer protection as the former attorney general of Connecticut.