Senators want the agency to fully enforce labeling standards, including with fines.
Nearly 4,000 people signed onto our action last week urging the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to impose tougher penalties on companies that falsely label their imported products as “Made in USA.”
It turns out a few Senators also sent a similar message of their own to the agency.
Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), and Chris Murphy (Conn.) sent a letter to the FTC on Oct. 12 to “express our concerns with ‘no-fault, no-money’ settlements for ‘Made in the USA’ labeling violations” and “urge the Commission to take all steps necessary to protect the integrity of the label.” The trio continue:
“Consumers view American-made goods more positively and are often willing to pay a higher price for them. In addition, consumers may be less likely to have health or quality concerns about a product when its true country of origin is concealed. If the consequences of misusing the “Made in the USA” label do not include paying fines or admitting wrongdoing, it is unlikely that these and other companies will be deterred from using the same deceptive tactics to sell their products in the future.”
The senators specifically were responding to recent rulings by the FTC that found three individual companies labeled their products as “Made in USA” but actually imported them from countries like China.
In one case, the company Sandpiper/PiperGear USA made military-themed backpacks and other patriotic gear, which it sold on military bases overseas. Sandpiper placed an American-made label on its stuff, even though the company's products actually were made in China or Mexico. In another case, mattress company Nectar Sleep falsely represented its products as assembled in the U.S., even though they are made in China.
Then there’s hockey puck maker Patriot Puck, which positioned itself as “the all-American alternative to imported pucks,” draped its pucks in the American flag and claimed its pucks were 100% American-made. The pucks were imported from China.
Although the FTC found that the companies had deceived consumers, the agency didn’t do much about it. None of the settlements with the three companies above included any monetary relief, notice to consumers, or even an admission of wrongdoing from the companies.
That didn’t sit well with us, nor did it sit well with FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra, who wrote a dissenting statement on the FTC settlement. And it didn’t sit well with Baldwin, Brown, and Murphy, who urged the FTC to “require the companies in these cases to pay fines and admit they lied.”
“Failure to take decisive action risks weakening the significance of the ‘Made in the USA’ label and undermining American manufacturers,” the senators added.
An open comment period on the FTC’s action in these cases ended on Friday. We’ll keep you updated with any new developments.