In a report released today, the Federal Trade Commission detailed its efforts to ensure that products advertised or labeled as "Made in USA" are, in fact, all or virtually all of domestic origin. The Commission noted that in the past 15 months, it has initiated over 40 investigations of companies making allegedly deceptive "Made in USA" claims or failing to make required country-of-origin disclosures -- resulting in formal law enforcement actions against 14 companies.
Since the 1940's, the FTC has held that a product must be wholly domestic or all or virtually all made in the United States to support a "Made in USA" claim. From mid-1995 through the end of 1997, the Commission conducted a comprehensive review and evaluation of what legal standard to apply when evaluating whether "Made in USA" and other U.S. origin claims are truthful and substantiated and whether the all or virtually all standard continued to be appropriate in light of an increasingly global economy. After seeking public input and analyzing consumer perception and other research, the message was clear - consumers expect a "Made in USA" claim to mean just that - and the Commission concluded that the traditional standard continued to be the appropriate measure for such claims. While the standard basically requires that products be entirely domestically made for a seller to claim truthfully that they are of U.S. origin, it recognizes that consumers believe the claim to be truthful if some negligible part of the item, or a de minimis portion of the labor involved in creating the product is not domestic.
In December 1997, the Commission issued an Enforcement Policy Statement to provide guidance to industry on how the Commission would enforce the all or virtually all standard. The report issued today describes the vigorous enforcement and compliance program the Commission has conducted since December 1997 to ensure that domestic origin claims are truthful and substantiated.
This program has included:
- Monitoring of "Made in USA" claims in print, broadcast, and Internet advertising, and on product labels, packaging and products;
- Monitoring of online and print catalogs selling textile and wool products to assess compliance with the country-of-origin disclosure requirements of the Textile and Wool Act Rules;
- Maintaining close coordination with state Attorneys General and the U.S. Customs Service regarding possible law violations;
- Responding to more than 600 requests for guidance on how to comply with the all or virtually all standard and presenting speeches concerning the standard at industry conferences;
- Disseminating a business guide on compliance with the all or virtually all standard and issuing a business guide on compliance with the requirements of the Textile and Wool Act Rules.
Through the efforts highlighted in the report, the FTC is sending a strong message to marketers that "Made in USA" claims must be truthful and substantiated, and that the agency will continue to maintain a strong enforcement presence in this area.
The Commission vote to issue its report: "U.S. Origin Claims: Enforcement and Compliance Activities Since December 1997" was 4-0.
Copies of the Report, as well as information about the FTC's review of U.S. origin claims are available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710.
(FTC File No.: 982 3204)
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