FTC Hosts Workshop on National Origin Claims

Advertising Law

Taking a deep dive into national origin claims, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) hosted “Made in the USA: An FTC Workshop.”

Participants in the half-day event began with a discussion of consumer perception of U.S.-origin claims, with a panel focused on how consumers interpret “Made in USA” claims. The FTC’s current guidance—the “Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims,” which dates back to 1997—established a standard that the product must be “all or virtually all” of domestic origin.

Attendees from the manufacturing industry suggested that the FTC consider tweaking the standard to align with those of other countries, many of which use a “substantial transformation” standard that permits a national origin claim where the major manufacturing takes place in the United States, without consideration of component or input parts.

Representatives from consumer groups countered that the standard should remain as it currently exists, arguing that it reflects a consumer perception that a “Made in USA” claim means the product was entirely sourced in the United States. FTC staff members on the panel encouraged stakeholders to engage in continual consumer perception research, noting that consumer perception changes over time.

During the other panels—which addressed compliance and policy challenges to doing business under the current policy as well as the FTC’s enforcement approaches—attendees discussed the reasons behind consumer desire for “Made in USA” products and whether the same national origin standard should apply for all types of products.

Enforcement of the FTC’s standard was a popular subject with attendees, particularly with regard to monetary damages, an issue that has been raised by commissioners in recent cases.

Consumer advocates voiced their desire to see consumer redress in “Made in USA” cases, while FTC staff responded that consumers who purchase products that may not have been made in the United States still receive the product itself, making restitution challenging to recover.  

For more information about the workshop, click here.

To watch a video of the workshop, click here.

Why it matters: The FTC will continue to accept comments on the topics discussed at the workshop until Oct. 11, so stakeholders with an interest in national origin claims should take the time to share their thoughts as the agency considers changing its approach to “Made in USA” ad claims.