April 2, 2020
When we’re deciding between buying two products, if one product says, “Made in the USA,” does that influence how we make our decision? For many people, it does, and we all have a reasonable expectation that the claim is truthful.
Earlier this week, the FTC announced a settlement with Williams-Sonoma. The company has agreed to stop making false, misleading, or unsubstantiated ‘Made in the USA’ claims for several of their houseware and furniture product lines. As part of the settlement, Williams-Sonoma is required to pay $1 million to the FTC.
“Made in USA” is not a sales claim just any company can make. It is an objective representation that many consumers find highly relevant and it requires solid substantiation.
According to the FTC’s complaint, numerous Williams-Sonoma product lines, including Goldtouch Bakeware products, and Pottery Barn Kids furniture were wholly imported, or contained significant imported materials or components making Williams-Sonoma’s representations false or misleading.
The FTC has laws and guidelines to help businesses know when it is appropriate to use the Made in USA label. That, in turn, helps people trust the labels they see.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you shop:
- A company that makes a “Made in the USA” or other United States origin claim for its product without additional qualification should be able to prove that all (or almost all) of the product was made in the United States. Products with these labels should contain virtually no material or components from other countries.
- In general, products processed or finished in the USA that contain materials from other countries should not be labeled “Made in the USA” without further explanation. Look for qualifying statements near the claim that explain which components of the product come from the USA.