The Senate recently passed the Country of Origin Labeling Online Act (COOL Online Act) with overwhelming bipartisan support. Currently, U.S. law requires that external packaging for many products state the product’s country of origin. The uptick in online shopping and the sale of imported products, however, has increased interest in requiring country of origin disclosures
The FTC recently announced that glue maker, Chemence, paid a landmark $1.2 million settlement to resolve allegations that the company failed to comply with a 2016 Order regarding “Made in USA” claims. The 2016 Order required Chemence to pay $220,000 and to stop making misleading claims that its products were made in the United States.…
On July 13, consumers filed a class action complaint in California federal court against Bigelow Tea, alleging the company falsely and deceptively represented that its tea products were made in the United States. Plaintiffs claim that the tea manufacturer advertised that its tea products were “Manufactured in the USA 100% American Family Owned” and “America’s…
Further to ongoing efforts to evaluate and regulate how companies advertise and label that their products are “Made in the USA,” last week the FTC issued a staff report and a proposed rule that would include the possibility of civil penalties up to $43,280 per violation.
FTC Chairman Joseph Simons joined Commissioners Rohit…
“Made in the USA” claims have taken on an even greater importance as American manufacturing has captivated the political discussion. Recently FTC Commissioner Chopra released a statement calling for more stringent enforcement of the agency’s “Made in USA” advertising policies.
Kristi Wolff discusses how to substantiate “Made in USA” claims on the latest episode of…
On May 9, the Federal Trade Commission Chairman and Commissioners testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s Subcommittee on Consumer Protection and Commerce on a number of issues. Reaffirming a previous commitment for increased scrutiny of deceptive “Made in USA” advertising, FTC Chairman Simons told Congress the agency plans to hold a workshop…
Most of our posts regarding “Made in USA” claims relate to FTC investigations and enforcement actions. Private plaintiffs, however, also closely watch those claims. For example, in 2018 plaintiffs filed a class action lawsuit against New Balance Athletics Inc. challenging qualified “Made in USA” claims. Although the plaintiffs acknowledged that New Balance qualified the claim…
On November 27, the FTC Commissioners testified on a range of issues before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, Insurance, and Data Security. One excerpt that caught our attention was their comments on “Made in USA” advertising and the potential for increased scrutiny.
Here’s an excerpt of the Q&A between Sen. Shelly Moore Capito (R-WV) and the FTC Commissioners (emphasis added):
CAPITO: Okay, last question I have on fraudulent marketing would be the… fraudulent Made in America label. How prevalent is this? And what are some of the means you’re going to try to curb this practice?
SIMONS: This is fairly prevalent. We get hundreds of these, hundreds of complaints a year, that people are improperly using the Made in the USA label. We are committed to investigating those, and usually a lot of times what happens is the firm, the company doesn’t even realize that it’s a violation. So we explain to them it’s a violation and they stop it.
Sometimes companies do it intentionally, sometimes we tell them and they don’t stop and those people we sue. And one of the things that we’re exploring now, as a general rule, we have only gotten injunctive relief in cases like this previously. Now we’re exploring whether we can find a good case that would be appropriate for monetary relief to serve as an additional deterrent.
CHOPRA: I just want to add here that I think there are manufacturers out there who hire American workers and who purposely do that because they want to put the flag on their product. And for those who lie, this cheapens the Made in the USA label so it’s not just hurting American consumers, it’s hurting every American manufacturer who is trying to do right. So I want us to be much more aggressive with this, actually. And if you and Senator Cortez-Masto want to team up, finding civil penalties for some of these bad actors, we can make sure we increase compliance levels. And I got to tell you — right now there’s a country of origin labeling issues in agriculture, country of origin issues in product marketing. We have to do more to put a stop to this because this is extremely unfair to honest companies.
Having now turned the page to the back half of 2018, we took a look at how the FTC’s “Made in USA” enforcement is stacking up to prior years. As we previously posted, the FTC made known its intent to prioritize “Made in USA” enforcement in remarks delivered at last fall’s NAD Conference. Year to date, the FTC has settled two cases (Bollman Hat Company and Nectar Brand LLC) and has issued 15 closing letters regarding “Made in USA” claims.
By comparison, there were two settlements and 22 closing letters in 2017. If the current pace continues, the number of closing letters may exceed prior years.
What can we learn from these cases?
- Qualified Claims Must Still Be Substantiated: Most closing letters involve unqualified “Made in USA” claims. However, qualified claims and those involving terms open to interpretation can still be the subject of scrutiny and must still be properly substantiated. Nectar Brands allegedly claimed in promotional materials that its mattresses were “Designed and Assembled in USA,” but the FTC’s complaint alleges that the mattresses were wholly imported from China, with no assembly taking place in the United States. “Crafted in America” was also among the claims that saw enforcement as was “Built in USA.”
- Watch For Disclosure Issues: In addition to labeling wholly imported products as “Made in USA,” the FTC alleged that Bollman Hat Company and its subsidiary licensed the “American Made Matters” seal to any company that claimed it had a United States-based manufacturing factory or one product with a U.S.-origin label, and met several membership requirements, including self-certifying that at least 50% of the cost of at least one of their products was incurred in the United States, with final assembly or transformation in the U.S., and payment of an annual licensing fee of $99. The settlement requires the respondents to engage an independent auditor regarding use of the seal or to clearly and conspicuously disclose that products and services may display the seal based on self-certification.