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FTC Finds Water Company Claims Are All Washed Up

The push to “Buy American” aims to encourage consumers and businesses to support homegrown industry. So, when a water filter maker’s claims of “buil[t] in the U.S.” didn’t hold water, the company quickly found itself in a sea of trouble with the FTC.

Georgia-based iSpring advertised and sold its water filter to consumers on its website as well as via major retailers such as Amazon, Overstock, Sears, Home Depot, and Walmart.  The FTC complaint alleged that iSpring Water Systems misled consumers with “false, misleading, or unsupported claims” that its water filtration systems are “Built in USA.” The problem, FTC alleged, was that the company used substantial components produced overseas.

Under the standard terms of its settlement with the FTC, iSpring is prohibited from making any representation regarding country of origin unless such representation is demonstrably true and cannot describe its products as “Made in USA” unless it can establish that virtually all of its components are sourced and manufactured in the United States. Qualified “Made in USA” claims are, of course, permissible so long as iSpring makes them “include a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients, [or] processing.”

“Supporting American manufacturing is important to many consumers. If a product is advertised or labelled as ‘made’ or ‘built’ in the USA, consumers rightly expect that to be the case when they part with their hard-earned money,” said Acting FTC Chairman Maureen Ohlhausen. “This is an important issue for American business and their customers, and the FTC will remain vigilant in this area.”

Many consumers do look for products made in America. The decision confirms that the FTC, which has been very active in enforcing against similar products over the past couple of years, will continue to take a close look at such claims. Public comments on the proposed agreement will be accepted until March 3, 2017, and interested parties can submit comments here.

© 2020 Keller and Heckman LLPNational Law Review, Volume VII, Number 40


About this Author

Sheila Millar, Keller Heckman, advertising lawyer, privacy attorney

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,...

Jean-Cyril Walker, Keller Heckman, Environmental Compliance Lawyer, Renewable Fuel Standards Attorney

Jean-Cyril Walker joined Keller and Heckman in 2000. He advises clients on a wide range of environmental matters, including compliance with U.S. requirements governing the safe management and disposal of chemical and hazardous substances. Mr. Walker counsels fuel industry clients on federal and state requirements governing the development and distribution of fuels and fuel additives, including the renewable fuel standards (RFS and RFS2), and matters involving renewable fuel identification number (RIN) transactions. Mr. Walker regularly advises industry and trade association clients on matters concerning the regulation of hazardous air pollutants under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA) and state and local air pollution statutes. In this regard, Mr. Walker has advised clients on compliance with numerous MACT standards, including those governing pharmaceutical production, chemical manufacturing, can and other surface coatings, and other industrial operations. Mr. Walker has extensive experience with CARB regulations, and in particular, on complying with regulations governing emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in adhesives, paints, and other industrial and consumer products.