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Made in USA Labels Might Be Stretching the Truth



 by Patricia Lynn Henley   Posted on November 24 2013



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It seems pretty simple: If you prefer to buy American-made products, then read the labels, packaging and advertisements, and purchase only items that say "Made in the USA" or something similar.

With consumers worried about American manufacturing jobs being shipped overseas, this is a relatively common desire. A recent survey by Consumer Reports found that given a choice between a product made here and an identical one made in a foreign country, 60% of those surveyed would buy the American-made product even if it cost 10% more.

But what if the label or company statement is a lie? The Federal Trade Commission recently reached a settlement with E.K. Ekcessories, Inc., which has agreed to stop claiming its products are "made in the USA" when they contain a significant amount of foreign content.

E.K. Ekcessories sells outdoor equipment such as waterproof iPhone accessories, bottle holders, lens cleaners, dog collars and leashes directly to consumers on its own website, and online through other sellers like Amazon and REI. According to the FTC complaint, most of the company's products were made in other countries, but its packaging and promotional materials included a logo featuring an American flag and the slogan "Truly Made in the USA," as well as several other statements indicating their products were manufactured in this country.

The company hasn't admitted to any wrong-doing, and there's no fine involved; E.K. Ekcessories has simply agreed to not claim that a product is "made in the USA" if it isn't.

So how can we protect ourselves against this type of deceptive labeling and advertising?

Unfortunately, there are no easy answers. Labeling laws and manufacturing procedures are both complex. And there is no pre-approval process for "Made in USA" labels; companies are more or less on the honor system. The FTC only takes action if it has "reason to believe" a company has violated the legal requirement that "all or virtually all" of a product labeled "made in USA" must be made in this country.

So the best steps to take are:

  • Read labels carefully, and don't assume an American flag symbol, a red-white-and-blue color scheme or an American-sounding brand name means it was manufactured here. For example, a dishcloth from American Mills may be clearly labeled (in smaller type) as "made in Pakistan."
  • If you're not sure, contact the manufacturer directly, and ask specific questions.
  • Check websites that list companies who make products in the United States, such as AmericansWorking.com or MadeInUSA.org.
  • If you suspect that a "made in USA" claim is false or deceptive, file a complaint with the FTC.


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