FTC Fines Another Company for False “Made in USA” Claims

By Elizabeth Brotherton-Bunch
Dec 06 2023 |
Old Southern Brass claimed to be a veteran-operated organization and sold products made from materials used by the U.S. military. Neither were true, according to the FTC. Image courtesy FTC

The agency continues to enforce country of origin labeling requirements.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on Wednesday announced action against a Florida company for falsely labeling its imported products as Made in the USA, along with claiming to be veteran-operated and not making good on promises to donate 10% of its sales to charity.

The FTC’s proposed order against EXOTOUSA LLC, known publicly as Old Southern Brass, would require the company and its owner to stop making deceptive country of origin claims and includes a monetary judgement of more than $4.5 million, which is “partially suspended due to the defendants’ inability to pay.” The company and owner Austin Oliver will be required to pay $150,000 to the FTC, and the full amount will be levied if the FTC determined Oliver and the company lied about their financial status.

According to the FTC, Old Southern Brass certainly lied about a lot of things. The company marketed its line of patriotic products as “100% AMERICAN MADE”, even though “many of the company’s products were wholly imported from China or contained significant imported content.”

That isn’t all. According to the FTC, Old Southern Brass claimed strong ties with the U.S. military, including “that the company was veteran-operated, donated 10 percent of sales to military service charities, and that it sold products that included bullets or casings used by the U.S. military.” None of that was true, the FTC says.

“Despite the company’s claims, the company was not operated by a veteran, and the products it sold as being used by the U.S. military were not actually used by the U.S. military,” the FTC says. “The complaint also charged that the company did not donate 10 percent of sales to veterans’ charities as it claimed. In fact, the company claimed charitable deductions that amounted to less than one-half of 1 percent of sales.”

Interestingly, one of the products sold by Old Southern Brass — and one which it falsely labeled as Made in USA” — is a decorative glass with a bullet in it. The glass is very similar in appearance to those made by Wisconsin company BenShot, which previously won a major lawsuit against an importer who also imported similar glasses and falsely labeled them as Made in the USA.

The situation really encapsulates the challenges faced by American manufacturers when marketing their innovative products. BenShot’s father-and-son team repurposed a old furniture factory once owned by Thomas Edison to make their glasses. They worked hard to manufacture their goods in the United States, and having a Made in USA label on their products gives them a much-deserved PR boost.

Deceptive companies like Old Southern Brass know this, but don’t want to do the hard work or pay the costs to make their products locally. So instead, they make their items overseas, market it as American-made, and hope that nobody notices. And in this case, Old Southern Brass also lied about being veteran-affiliated and donating to charity. Just awful behavior all around.

This is why enforcement efforts by the FTC are so important. For far too long, companies got away with making false labeling claims, as the agency did not do much to enforce the country of origin standard. That began to change a few years ago when the FTC announced a rule change that gave the agency the power to issue meaningful penalities.

We applaud the FTC for continuing to take action against those who deceive the public, and we think it’s time to codify the current FTC standard for Made in USA into law. In the meantime, we hope you will support companies that do manufacture their products in the U.S.A. by taking a look at the 2023 Made in America Holiday Gift Guide.

One of the companies on the list this year: BenShot.