You want to support the U.S. economy, so you look for a "Made in the USA" label when you go shopping. Yet, federal regulators say some of those labels were deceptively used to boost business.
A Federal Trade Commission (FTC), complaint found labels issued by an Ohio company—Made in the USA Brand, LLC—had "significant imported content." The company licensed its Made in USA certification mark to any business that paid the $250 to $2,000 annual fee, according to the complaint.
On Tuesday, the company agreed to settle the FTC charges that it deceived consumers by allowing companies to use the seal without independently verifying that products were made in the U.S.
The FTC charged Made in the USA Brand with falsely advertising that it "independently and objectively evaluated" that certified products met its accreditation standards, when in fact, there was no such verification. Companies simply certified that they met the label standards.
"Seals can be very helpful when consumers purchase products based on claims that are difficult to verify—like the Made-in-the-USA claim," said Jessica Rich, director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection in a statement Tuesday. "When marketers provide seals without any verification, or without telling consumers the seal is unverified, consumers are deceived and the value of all marketers' seals is diminished."
In settling the case, Made in the USA Brand is prohibited from claiming that any products or companies meet its certification standard unless it either conducts an independent and objective evaluation, or discloses on its logo (and all of its promotional materials) that companies and products are self-certified.
The company said it is pleased the case is settled and noted that there was no monetary penalty imposed and no admission of any improper conduct.
"We view this settlement as a positive opportunity to align with the FTC to ensure that the Made in USA Brand meets the highest standards of clarity and trust," the statement said.