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FTC Continues Focus on “Made in America” Claims

Making the same false country-of-origin claims that initially resulted in a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) consent order is a good way to land a company with substantial civil penalties and corrective advertising obligations. iSpring Water Systems LLC found this out the hard way. Instead of complying with its earlier promise not to falsely advertise its products as made in the USA, the water filtration systems company breached a 2017 administrative order. Ispring is now on the hook for $110,000 in civil penalties.

Sold online and in major retailers, iSpring water filtration systems were marketed as “Designed and crafted in USA” and “Proudly Built in the USA.” The problem with this advertising, however, is that the product was actually being manufactured in China. In 2017, the company settled an FTC complaint, agreeing not to make such claims unless it could provide evidence that all significant processing was USA-based and that nearly all components were made here. That promise went down the drain.

The proposed settlement contains an admission of liability after the company’s owner and officer admitted falsely advertising that the filtration systems were USA-made In addition to paying the civil penalty, the new order imposes a corrective advertising remedy: iSpring must identify and notify all consumers who purchased iSpring products between March 10, 2018 and July 15, 2018 that the company made misleading claims about country of origin. This is the type of corrective advertising remedy used in a series of false “VOC-free” claims we previously described.  The company is also required to submit to compliance reporting and monitoring for 20 years.

The FTC also approved final consent orders in two other “Made in America” cases we reported on last year, involving hockey puck manufacturer Patriot Puck and recreational gear companies Sandpiper and PiperGear USA, Inc.

The orders prohibit Patriot Puck, Sandpiper and Piper from making misleading or deceptive Made in the USA statements. To make a “Made in the USA” claim the advertiser must show that:

  • The product’s final assembly or processing occurs in the United States, all significant processing occurs in the United States, and all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the United States; or

  • A clear and conspicuous qualification appears immediately adjacent to the representation that accurately conveys the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients or components, and/or processing. To make an “Assembled in the USA” claim the advertiser must show that the product is last substantially transformed in the United States, its principal assembly takes place in the United States, and its U.S. assembly operations are substantial.

The FTC continues to target companies that make misleading or unsubstantiated Made in the USA claims. Businesses making US-origin claims  would do well to consult the FTC’s Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims to avoid winding up in hot water with the Commission.

© 2019 Keller and Heckman LLP

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About this Author

Sheila Millar, Keller Heckman, advertising lawyer, privacy attorney
Partner

Sheila A. Millar counsels corporate and association clients on advertising, privacy, product safety, and other public policy and regulatory compliance issues.

Ms. Millar advises clients on an array of advertising and marketing issues.  She represents clients in legislative, rulemaking and self-regulatory actions, advises on claims, and assists in developing and evaluating substantiation for claims. She also has extensive experience in privacy, data security and cybersecurity matters.  She helps clients develop website and app privacy policies,...

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