Recently, the Federal Trade Commission closed its investigation into whether marketing materials for Tradenet Enterprise, Inc. d/b/a Vantage LED overstated the extent to which the company's LED signs are made in the United States.
In its letter closing the investigation, the FTC made clear that it believes that claims such as "built" or "manufactured" in the United States mean the same thing as "made" in the United States.
The FTC acknowledged, however, that if Vantage employs workers in the United States, "it is appropriate for the Company to promote that fact, provided that marketing materials do not overstate the extent to which Vantage products are made in the United States."
As is typical in these investigations, when the FTC closes a case, the FTC expects the advertiser to take substantial remedial measures to prevent consumer deception. Here, Vantage took numerous steps, including:
- Updating its website and social media accounts;
- Removing, discarding, or discontinuing the use of potentially misleading print materials;
- Instructing third party distributors and dealers to discard or return out-of-date materials;
- Providing updated marketing materials to dealers; and
- Training sales staff on how to make non-deceptive claims.
For unqualified U.S.-origin claims, the FTC expects advertisers to substantiate that the product was "all or virtually all" made in the United States. The FTC continues to aggressively go after potentially misleading "made in USA" claims, including investigations such as the ones we've recently reported on here, here, here, and here.