“America’s Oldest Hat Maker” doffs patriotic tag lines

The Spat Re: The Hat

In late January 2018, the Federal Trade Commission filed a complaint against the Bollman Hat Co. In the complaint, the FTC took aim at the United States-based company and claimed that, despite its frequent use of patriotic ad slogans and made-in-the-USA claims, the company was selling hats that were manufactured outside the United States.

The FTC also took notice of a seal developed by the company that included the statement “American Made Matters,” which the company licensed for other companies wishing to make “Made in USA” claims for their products. The problem, the FTC maintained, was that requirements to license the seal were too easy to make the claim meaningful. Aside from a nominal fee, any company that “had a United States-based manufacturing factory, or at least one product with a U.S.-origin label” could use the seal.

The Takeaway

In April 2018, Bollman reached a settlement with the FTC. First, the “American Made Matters” certification − or any similar certification the company wanted to create − would have to undergo “an independent and objective evaluation, audit, or verification check” to ensure that it met the standards set up by Bollman. Failing that, the company would have to note in promotional materials that the labeled products might be self-certified.

The settlement stated that the Bollman Hat Co. is prohibited from misrepresenting U.S.-origin claims and prohibited from misrepresenting certifications. It is another example of the FTC taking action against companies who purport to manufacture products in the USA to pander to individuals who favor domestic-based manufacturing companies. This settlement is also a reminder to companies that claims made on products and licensed to other companies must be substantiated and not misleading in order to protect consumers and prevent FTC enforcement actions.