The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board (IACB) of the U.S. Department of the Interior have joined forces to combat the deceptive marketing of arts and crafts products as made by American Indians. Representatives from both agencies have surfed the Internet to locate websites that advertise American Indian arts and crafts. After identifying approximately 425 sites that appear to market American Indian arts and crafts as authentic, the FTC staff and IACB notified each site operator that the law prohibits false representations about the origin of arts and crafts, and cautioned site operators that all ad claims must be truthful and non-deceptive, and urged them to immediately remove any untrue or deceptive claims.
"Authentic American Indian arts and crafts are prized for their beauty, originality and workmanship," said Jodie Bernstein, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection. "When counterfeit arts and crafts are sold as authentic, it not only hurts Tribes and individual artists, but also the consumers who don't get what they pay for. Consumers interested in authentic American Indian arts and crafts should buy from established dealers who give written guarantees or certificates of authenticity."
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 makes it illegal to advertise or sell any art or craft in a way that falsely suggests it is produced by an American Indian or is the product of a particular American Indian tribe. All claims about the Indian origin and tribal affiliation for any product must be truthful. The IACB may refer violations of the Act to the Department of Justice for prosecution. "The Indian Arts and Crafts Board is determined to do whatever it can to rid the Indian Arts and Crafts market of frauds," according to Meridith Stanton, Acting Director of the IACB.
The FTC Act prohibits "unfair or deceptive" acts or practices. In the past, the Commission has brought law enforcement actions against individuals and companies that misrepresented facts about artists, artisans and artwork, including their ethnic origins.
To help consumers shop wisely, the FTC and the IACB have published a brochure: "How to Buy Genuine American Indian Arts and Crafts," which includes the following tips:
- Buy from an established dealer who gives a written guarantee or certificate of authenticity.
- Ask if your item comes with an Indian Arts and Crafts Board certification tag. While not all authentic Indian arts and crafts carry this tag, those that do are certified by the Department of the Interior (DOI) to be genuine.
- Get a receipt that includes all the vital information about the value of your purchase, including any verbal promises. For example, if the salesperson told you that the piece of jewelry you're buying is sterling silver and natural turquoise and was handmade by an American Indian artisan, insist that this information appear on your receipt.
- Before buying American Indian arts and crafts at powwows, annual fairs, juried competitions, and other events, check the event requirements for information about the authenticity of the products being offered for sale. Many events list their requirements in newspaper ads, promotional flyers and printed programs. If the event organizers make no statement about the authenticity of American Indian arts and crafts for sale, get written verification about the authenticity for any item you buy that is sold as authentic.
To learn more about American Indian arts and crafts, consumers may contact:
- Indian Arts and Crafts Association, P.O. Box 29780, Santa Fe, NM 87592-9780; 505-265-9149; www.iaca.com
The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877- FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at www.ftc.gov. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing, and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.
The Indian Arts and Crafts Board receives and refers valid complaints about violations of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 to the FBI for investigation and to the Department of Justice for legal action. To file a complaint under the Act, or to get free information about the Act, contact the Indian Arts and Crafts Board, U.S. Department of the Interior, 1849 C Street, N.W., MS 4004-MIB, Washington, D.C. 20240; 202-208-3773; visit the website www.iacb.doi.gov or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copies of the brochure, "How to Buy Genuine American Indian Arts and Crafts," 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; toll-free: 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); 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.
Office of Public Affairs
Bureau of Consumer Protection
Meridith Z. Stanton
Indian Arts and Crafts Board