The makers of The North Face outdoor gear have agreed to pay $207,500 to resolve allegations that the company made unverified claims that its footwear kills or controls bacteria, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday.
The agreement with San Leandro-based VF Outdoor Inc., the parent company of The North Face, settles an administrative complaint the agency filed with a regional EPA hearing officer in September.
That complaint alleged that North Face made unsubstantiated claims online and in packaging that the footwear was treated with a microbial agent that controls and prevents bacterial and fungal growth. The claims were tied to more than 60 types of shoes, the EPA said.
The complaint didn’t charge that the chemicals were harmful, but that North Face violated federal law by making the claims about chemicals that weren’t tested or registered with the EPA for that use.
EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld said, “EPA will take decisive action against companies making unverified public health claims.
“Unless these products are registered with EPA, consumers have little or no information about whether their claims are accurate,” he said.
VF Outdoor Inc. issued a statement saying the case concerned “marketing verbiage.” It said it removed the marketing claims from hang tags and its website after hearing from the EPA in 2008.
The company said it is dedicated to making “high quality The North Face products that are safe for consumers.”
The EPA complaint originally sought more than $1 million in fines of $6,500 each for 162 alleged uses of the claims in sales of shoes from North Face’s downtown San Francisco store and other stores.