Leading clothing manufacturer Jones Apparel Group yesterday agreed to pay a $300,000 fine as part of a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) into allegations it broke strict rules on garment care labelling.

The firm paid the fine without admitting liability after the FTC accused it of selling cashmere sweaters labelled "dry clean only" when the garments could in fact be washed by hand.

The FTC also alleged that other garments faded and were damaged after dry-cleaning, with all the alleged violations said to have taken place between 1998 and 2000.

The agency added that the faulty instructions allegedly appeared on clothing sold under the popular Jones NY and Jones NY Sport brands.

In a news release, agency chiefs said the fine imposed on Jones Apparel was one of the largest seen for a breach of the Care Labelling Rule and added the company had agreed to develop written care labelling procedures.

"The FTC's Care Labelling Rule is designed to ensure that consumers don't lose the hard-earned money they spend on clothing because of inaccurate information on how to clean it," added J Howard Beales III, director of the commission's consumer protection bureau.