This week, Truth in Advertising, Inc. (also known as TINA.org) submitted a petition to the Federal Trade Commission which asks the FTC to promulgate regulations for "Made in USA" claims. TINA.org is a non-partisan, non-profit, consumer advocacy organization whose mission is to "combat the systemic and individual harms caused by deceptive marketing."
Currently, the FTC's guidance on "Made in USA" claims comes from its Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims. The Enforcement Policy Statement is not legally binding or independently enforceable; it's simply the FTC's view about what practices are deceptive under the FTC Act.
TINA.org is arguing that the FTC should institute a rulemaking to pass specific regulations so that the FTC's "Made in USA" standard can be codified into binding rules that are enforceable. In addition, unlike typical false advertising charges that the FTC brings under Section 5 of the FTC Act, if there's a rule in place, the FTC can also seek civil penalties for violations. Because the FTC currently doesn't have the authority to issue civil penalties for violations of its "Made in USA" standard, TINA.org wrote, "even if an abuser of the FTC's Made in the USA guidance is caught, it typically gets a free pass, regardless of how egregious the violation made be."
Recognizing the great value of "Made in USA" claims to business, TINA.org argued that advertisers that use the claim deceptively not only reduce the value of the claim but directly harm other business and rob consumers of their money. Moreover, pointing to the large numbers of enforcement actions that the FTC continues to bring, TINA.org wrote, "The FTC's current approach to enforcement of Made in the USA claims does little to curb abuse."
The question of whether the FTC's "Made in USA" enforcement program is working -- and whether it's tough enough -- is not lost on the FTC. The Commissioners have publicly debated what the right course of action is going forward. And in April, Chairman Joe Simons said that the FTC plans to hold a workshop this year on whether it's "Made in USA" enforcement program is using its legal authority as effectively as possible.
"The FTC's current approach to enforcement of Made in the USA claims does little to curb abuse" -- TINA.org