Bipartisan Bill Would Mandate Country-of-Origin Labeling for Online Products

By Cathalijne Adams
May 04 2023 |
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Sens. Tammy Baldwin and JD Vance introduced legislation that aims to increase online transparency and support Made in USA products.

Take a look down any neighborhood street, and you’re sure to find a bounty of cardboard boxes nestled by front doors, holding the fruits of online purchases that took only a click or swipe to make. It’s a system that got so many of us through the pandemic. All the toys, athleisure, cleaning products, and cooking gear we needed right this minute made their way to us courtesy of Amazon and so many other online purveyors. But there’s a major problem that you’ve surely encountered in your online shopping: It’s really hard to find country-of-origin information for the vast majority of goods sold online. And that’s not because your Internet sleuthing skills need a brush-up.

Online retailers are not legally required to disclose their products’ country of origin. It’s a baffling blind spot that Chinese e-commerce companies are increasingly exploiting.

Online shopping is unquestionably one of the major ways consumers make purchases. By 2026, 24% of retail purchases are projected to take place online, according to Insider Intelligence, and a 2019 study found that 81% of shoppers research products online extensively before purchasing at a brick-and-mortar store. Americans shouldn’t be forced to buy blind because they’re purchasing products online.

Polling has shown that most Americans want this problem fixed. Eight in 10 Americans (79%) believe online retailers should be required to include a country-of-origin label for products, a November 2022 consumer survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of the Alliance for American Manufacturing revealed. And 81% of respondents said that they would purchase more products that are Made in the U.S. if there were more widely available at large retailers.

There’s a simple solution here: Shoppers should be offered the same country of origin information they are provided in physical stores. A bill introduced by Sens. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and JD Vance (R-Ohio) Wednesday aims to do just that. The legislation, named the Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Online Act, would extend currently existing country-of-origin labeling requirements to products sold online. Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), and Mike Braun (R-Ind.) are co-sponsoring the legislation.

“Whether we buy things online or in-store, Americans have a right to know if the product they are purchasing was made in America, by American workers,” Baldwin said. “I’ve heard from Made in Wisconsin businesses across the state who work hard to innovate and create new products, only to have cheaper, lower quality imitations sold online with no requirements to identify themselves as foreign-made. I am proud to join my Democratic and Republican colleagues to fix our outdated country-of-origin labeling laws to promote transparency for shoppers and boost American manufacturers, businesses, and workers.” 

“The American people deserve to know where the products they buy are made, regardless of whether they’re shopping in-store or online,” Vance said. “Our legislation would close a legal loophole by extending current, commonsense labeling requirements to e-commerce. With this proposal, we can give American consumers the confidence that their online purchases support American workers and industry.”

Specifically, the legislation would require that online retailers “clearly and conspicuously” provide country-of-origin labeling in product descriptions and that they clearly disclose the country where the seller is located.   

We at the Alliance for American Manufacturing have been rooting for passage of the COOL Act since Baldwin introduced it in 2020.  

“We applaud Senator Tammy Baldwin and Senator JD Vance for introducing the Country of Origin Labeling Online Act,” Alliance for American Manufacturing Scott Paul said. “By giving online shoppers information about where a product is being made and where the seller is located, consumers will be well-positioned to support the U.S. economy and create more jobs for American workers. It is long overdue that Congress close this loophole and we are grateful to Senators Baldwin and Vance for leading the way.”