Earlier this month, the FTC issued a letter to Williams-Sonoma, Inc., indicating that it had closed its investigation into whether the company made deceptive U.S.-origin claims. In order to make "made in USA" and similar claims about a product, the FTC says that the product must be "all or virtually all" made in the United States.
According to the FTC's letter, Williams-Sonoma inadvertently claimed on its pbteen.com website that certain mattress pads were "Crafted in America," even though they were apparently imported from China. The letter also said that after Williams-Sonoma had been notified by the FTC, the company "immediately" corrected the error and updated its website to reflect that the product is imported.
The FTC said that it also discussed with the company general concerns relating to Williams-Sonoma's process for ensuring the accuracy of country-of-origin claims on its website. Williams-Sonoma indicated that it follows a three-step process to prevent consumer deception with respect to country-of-origin claims for products on its website:
- The company receives and reviews country-of-origin information from vendors;
- Product information teams review country-of-origin statements to confirm that they comply with the FTC's Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims; and
- Product information teams correct errors immediately upon discovering inaccurate or incorrect claims.
In addition to the fact that the FTC continues to be interested in potentially deceptive "made in USA" claims, there are a couple of interesting take-aways from this letter. First, if you do discover a problem with your advertising claims, or if the FTC contacts you about the problem, it's important to take action immediately. The FTC recognizes that responsible companies sometimes make mistakes; the FTC is going to look a lot more favorably at the situation if you've done everything you can to promptly remedy the situation. Second, it's important to have a reasonable process in place to help ensure that your advertising claims are properly substantiated.