The Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) has continued to aggressively prosecute advertisers for making “Made in USA” claims that the FTC believes are deceptive. Since President Trump’s inauguration, the FTC has entered into at least three settlement agreements with advertisers involving “Made in USA” claims and has issued closing letters in at least 20 other cases. In order to make an unqualified “Made in USA” claim about a product, the FTC requires that the advertiser substantiate that the product was “all or virtually all” made in the United States.
In the FTC’s case against iSpring Water Systems, LLC, a Georgia-based distributor of water filtration systems, the FTC alleged that iSpring made unqualified claims that its products were made in the United States, despite the fact that its products were wholly imported or had a significant amount of foreign inputs.
The second FTC case involved Block Division, Inc., a Texas-based distributor of pulley block systems. Here, the FTC alleged that Block Division’s pulleys featured imported steel plates that were stamped “Made in USA” prior to the plates’ entry into the United States.
In its third and most recent case, the FTC alleged that Bollman Hat Company and its wholly owned subsidiary SaveAnAmericanJob, LLC (“Bollman”) misled consumers about whether their products were manufactured in the United States. Specifically, the FTC alleged that Bollman marketed hats with statements such as “Made in USA since 1868,” and “#buyamerican.” Despite these claims, the FTC alleged that more than 70% of the hat styles sold by Respondents were wholly imported as finished products. The FTC also alleged that Bollman licensed its “American Made Matters” seal to other companies for use in connection with the marketing of their own products without doing sufficient due diligence to ensure that the products were, in fact, made in the United States. The FTC alleged that Bollman only required that third parties who wished to use the American Made Matters seal self-certify that at least 50% of the cost of at least one of its products was incurred in the United States, with final assembly or transformation in the United States.
These cases – and the twenty other investigations that resulted in closing letters – are an important reminder that advertisers should exercise caution to ensure that their “Made in USA” claims comply with FTC standards.