MADISON, CONN. August 22, 2019– Consumer advocacy organization, truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org), filed a formal petition today requesting that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) use its rulemaking authority to expand its enforcement abilities and better defend the Made in USA designation.
The FTC’s Made in USA standard calls for products marketed with an unqualified Made in USA claim to be “all or virtually all” made here. This means that most everything associated with the manufacturing of the product, from all significant parts and processing to the location of final assembly, must be of U.S. origin. Any foreign content must be negligible or else the product cannot be marketed as “made” or “built” in the USA without qualifying language such as “with U.S. and imported parts.” Consumers have shown a preference for American-made products, with some even willing to pay more for them, making it crucial to uphold the standard.
But in the past few years, TINA.org has exposed a number of companies deceptively marketing products as Made in USA, including Williams-Sonoma, Mercedes, Gillette, Walmart and Target among others. TINA.org’s 2015 investigation of Walmart’s website, for example, uncovered hundreds of false and deceptive Made in USA claims – issues the company initially dismissed as “coding errors.” And in May, TINA.org filed a complaint with the FTC against furniture retail giant, Williams-Sonoma after finding more than 800 examples of the company deceptively marketing products —including everything from furniture, lighting fixtures and kitchenware, to rugs, jewelry and bedding products — as American-made when in fact these products were imported or made with imported materials.
The FTC has increasingly come under fire for the way it polices false Made in USA marketing. The agency typically shies away from pursuing the kind of enforcement actions that could lead to money judgments, admissions of wrongdoing and/or refunds for consumers. The vast majority of deceptive Made in USA casesit has taken on have ended with a closing letter, no matter how egregious the violation. And though Congress authorized the FTC over 25 years ago to issue rules related to Made in USA claims, the agency has yet to do so, limiting its enforcement abilities.
This is why TINA.org is petitioning the FTC to adopt a formal rule for Made in USA enforcement. Doing so would give the FTC the option to seek a penalty against first-time offenders who blatantly ignore the law. Beefing up the agency’s authority would also promote a deterrent effect by changing the cost-benefit analysis of engaging in false Made in the USA marketing for many deceptive marketers, thereby increasing the agency’s impact on the marketplace and protecting those businesses who play by the rules to support American manufacturing.
To read more about TINA.org’s investigations of deceptive made in the USA marketing, see:
TINA.org is also currently tracking more than 30 class-action lawsuits alleging deceptive made in the USA claims: https://truthinadvertising.org/by-the-numbers-made-in-the-usa-class-action-lawsuits/