Skip to main content

When thou makest claims to thy consumers,
Base them in facte, not boast or rumours.

Nowhere is this truer

Than when thou claim
 “Made in USA-eth.”

OK – that’s not even close to Ye Olde English, but when a company’s name is Chaucer Accessories, it’s hard for Literature majors not to harken back to their Canterbury Tales days. The FTC just announced a proposed settlement with the company, affiliated entities, and the company president for making allegedly deceptive Made in USA representations. In addition, the case sends an important message about the care advertisers must exercise if they want to make qualified Made in USA claims.

Massachusetts- and New Hampshire-based Chaucer Accessories, Bates Accessories, and Bates Retail Group sell belts, bags, wallets, and shoes to consumers directly, on major product platforms, and through third-party trade customers that resell products under their own private-label brands. The companies’ websites featured banners on every page that said “Made in USA” or “Hand Crafted in the USA.” But according to the FTC, in numerous instances, their shoes, belts, and other items were wholly imported or contained significant imported content. The complaint also alleges the companies made similar misleading Made in USA statements to its third-party trade customers and provided them with labels and promotional materials featuring deceptive U.S.-origin claims.

What’s more, the companies imported belt straps from Taiwan, attached buckles to the straps in the United States, and labeled the finished products as “Made in USA from Global Materials.” According to the complaint, the companies then advertised and sold the belts through their websites, in catalogs, and on third-party platforms with prominent “Made in USA” claims.

In fact, United States Customs and Border Protection determined that those belts weren’t “Made in USA from Global Materials” because attaching a buckle to a strap is a minimal assembly operation that doesn’t change the name, character, or use of an imported belt strap.

The FTC’s three-count complaint charges the respondents with making false or misleading “Made in USA” claims, making false or misleading “Made in USA from Global Materials” claims, and providing its trade customers with the means and instrumentalities to commit deceptive acts or practices. The proposed settlement includes a monetary judgment of $191,481 and requires the respondents to contact certain customers directly about the FTC action.

In the future, the companies and the company president will be prohibited from making unqualified U.S.-origin claims for any product, unless they can show that the product’s final assembly or processing – and all significant processing – takes place in the United States and that all or virtually all ingredients or components are made and sourced here. If they make qualified claims, they must include a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, components, or processing. For assembly claims, they must ensure that the product is last substantially transformed in the United States, its principal assembly takes place here, and U.S. assembly operations are substantial. Once the proposed settlement is published in the Federal Register, the FTC will accept public comments for 30 days.

The takeaway message for other companies: U.S. origin claims are highly material to many consumers. Don’t run the risk of customers “going medieval” if they learn that a company’s Made in USA claims – qualified or unqualified – are deceptive.

Looking for compliance resources? The Made in USA page features links to the FTC’s Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims, the Complying with the Made in USA Standard guide for business, and the Made in USA Labeling Rule.

It is your choice whether to submit a comment. If you do, you must create a user name, or we will not post your comment. The Federal Trade Commission Act authorizes this information collection for purposes of managing online comments. Comments and user names are part of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) public records system, and user names also are part of the FTC’s computer user records system. We may routinely use these records as described in the FTC’s Privacy Act system notices. For more information on how the FTC handles information that we collect, please read our privacy policy.

The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

More from the Business Blog

Get Business Blog updates