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Katie Notopoulos, Buzzfeed News
MADISON, CONN. September 20, 2021 – According to the latest investigation by consumer advocacy organization truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org), New Balance is deceptively marketing some of its athletic shoes as “made in the USA,” brazenly ignoring the legal definition in favor of its own, less stringent standard. Today, the ad watchdog filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) urging the agency to open an investigation into New Balance’s deceptive made in the USA claims and take appropriate enforcement action.
“New Balance knows the law, fought the law and is now ignoring the law,” Bonnie Patten, TINA.org’s executive director, stated. “The FTC should send a strong message that there’s a price to pay for misleading consumers.”
TINA.org’s investigation found that for certain lines of footwear, the multi-billion dollar Boston-based company plasters made in the USA labels and flag imagery on everything from the shoes themselves, sewn into the sides and tongues of the sneakers, to the tags that are attached to the shoes and the boxes and tissue paper that the shoes are packaged in. Certain shoes even have “Made in US” in their name. Moreover, marketing claims made on the company’s website and social media platforms, as well as those made by social media influencers and sponsored athletes further amplify the “made in the USA” messaging.
While the FTC requires products marketed as “made in the USA” be “all or virtually all” made in the United States, New Balance says it labels (and markets) its shoes “made in the USA” when the “domestic value,” a term that it does not define, is as little as 70 percent. This disclaimer generally appears in inconspicuous places well removed from the made in the USA labels leaving consumers, many of whom not only prefer American-made products over imported products but are willing to pay more for them, unaware that New Balance’s definition does not meet the FTC’s legal standard.
This August, the FTC adopted a new Made in USA Labeling Rule (based on a petition filed by TINA.org ) that gives it the authority to fine companies engaged in deceptive made in the USA labeling $43,792 per violation, which means New Balance could face potential penalties of at least $1 million for every 23 shoes that bear a label in violation of the rule.
TINA.org has investigated and taken action on deceptive made in the USA claims made by a number of companies, including Walmart, Gillette and Mercedes-Benz. In addition, the consumer watchdog has tracked dozens of class-action lawsuits alleging deceptive made in the USA claims.
To read more about TINA.org’s investigation of New Balance, visit: https://truthinadvertising.org/new-balance-an-iconic-made-in-usa-brand-defies-ftc-law/
Find out more about TINA.org’s work uncovering deceptive Made in USA claims here.
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Katie Notopoulos, Buzzfeed News
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