The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has just announced that it will be closing its "Made in USA" investigation of Target Stores involving certain Target owned/branded products. The investigation began in response to numerous consumer complaints regarding conflicting origin labeling representation on certain Target pillow products. Apparently, the outer packaging of the pillow products bore an unqualified "Made in USA" claim, while the package's contents – the pillows themselves – bore a "Made in China" label claim. In response to the FTC’s investigation, Target took several actions to remedy the deception, including removing all affected items from sale, introducing remedial packaging, and, most significantly, agreeing to undertake several longer term "process enhancements" designed to prevent future deceptive "Made in USA" claims.
These longer term enhancements include:
- Assembling a cross functional team of experts to evaluate and analyze a product’s origin attributes;
- Using a new flag in the company packaging system to identify when an unqualified "Made in USA" claim is proposed, so that vendors can insure compliance with FTC "Made in USA" standards;
- Developing new criteria for third party assessments for all unqualified "Made in USA" claims so that such claims can be validated; and
- Commencing a large review of private-label domestic vendors to conduct spot checks for all unqualified "Made in USA" claims.
In view of these significant actions, the FTC decided not to pursue this any further and closed out the matter. As can be seen from this just-released closing letter, the FTC continues to take all "Made in USA" claims very seriously and accord them a high level of enforcement priority. We fully expect this enforcement trend to continue, particularly under the new Presidential Administration, which has clearly and repeatedly identified US manufacturing and the use and sale of American-made products as a top priority.