In a letter dated June 23, 2000, to Cecilia Gardner, executive director of the Jewelers Vigilance Committee, Gemworld International’s research director Stuart Robertson argues that JVC’s stance on the non-disclosure of treatments is wrong. Gardner has asked the Federal Trade Commission to allow the next generation of FTC Guides for the Jewelry Industry to read: “Permanent treatments which do not create special care requirements should be disclosed if the treatment has an effect on the stone’s value and if said treatment(s) are known or reasonably should have been known to the seller at the time of sale.”
According to Robertson and others,all treatments affect value. Some trade representatives are even pointing the finger at Gardner, saying that it looks like JVC’s board of directors-made up mainly of representatives from large chain stores-is pushing Gardner in a direction that will make it easy for them not to disclose enhancements at all.
Roland Naftule, speaking to the American Gem Trade Association membership, states, “What the JVC is saying, with the support of other trade organizations, is, in effect: If the treatment does not have an effect on the stone’s value, and if the treatment is not known at the time of sale, the treatment need not be disclosed.”
Dana Schorr of Schorr Marketing in Santa Barbara, Calif., has written an open letter to the members of the American Gem Society, hoping it will spur the group to join with AGTA and others who oppose JVC’s position. “The FTC’s proposed standards are unacceptable, and the JVC’s support of them is wrong,” states Schorr. Noting AGTA’s position, Naftule reiterates that “all treatments, permanent or otherwise, are performed to increase the value of untreated material and should be disclosed.”
Gardner contends that the AGTA was involved in the task force that created the FTC recommendation more than a year ago. She also says that much of the legal language on disclosures already exists in the FTC Guides, and that AGTA’s position on stone treatments doesn’t protect the consumer.
“We filed our position with the FTC on guides more than a year ago [August 31, 1999], which was the deadline for the filing requirements at that time,” Gardner says. “Only now, AGTA is reacting to this. I can’t figure out why the AGTA took a year to figure this out. The JVC is taking the brunt of all the attacks when it was the work of a task force.”
The eight-member task force consisted of representatives of JVC and Jewelers of America. AGTA executive director Doug Hucker was also a member. “He was a full participant at the time the comment was filed,” Gardner says. “The task force did not agree with his position.”
She defends the language of the non-disclosure statement, saying it already exists in the FTC guidelines. The language, she says, pertains only to stone treatments that affect the value of a stone. It protects retailers who, despite good-faith efforts, unknowingly purchased treated stones, and it protects consumers if the jeweler purposely failed to reveal the treatment.
“The FTC would always decline to prosecute any claim that alleged insignificant deception regarding value,” she says. “Further, a seller cannot disclose that which is unknown. If, despite best efforts to the contrary, the seller has been deceived regarding treatment, there is no liability on the seller’s part for failure to disclose. Our suggested revisions merely state the manner in which the Guides would be legally applied by courts and the FTC.”
Finally, Gardner argues that the AGTA position that all treatments should be disclosed is too “broad” and “vague.” “It’s unfair and provides no specification to the consumer,” she says.