The Federal Trade Commission recently investigated whether Thomaston Mills -- which sells bedding, towels, and other products -- failed to comply with the country-of-origin requirements under the Textile Products Identification Act and the Textile Rules. In a closing letter issued to Thomaston, the FTC expressed concerns that, for some products, "materials omitted required country-of-origin information, or failed to disclose that those products were made from imported fabrics."
Marketers that sell products that are subject to the Textile Act and Textile Rules are subject to mandatory country-of-origin labeling requirements, regardless of whether the products come from the United States or a foreign country. The labeling requirements also apply to mail order and internet sales too. (The rules for identifying a product's country-of-origin under the Textile Act and Textile Rules are different from the FTC's "made in USA" standards.)
In order to come into compliance with the Textile Act and Textile Rules, Thomaston agreed to implement a remedial action plan, which included updating marketing materials and product labeling, training personnel about the applicable legal requirements, and working with dealers and distributors to confirm the accuracy of their marketing materials. Because of the company's remedial efforts (and other unstated factors), the FTC said that it decided not to bring an enforcement action against the company.
The FTC's letter said, "it its appropriate for Thomaston Mills to promote the fact that it employs workers, performs certain processes, and makes a particular line of products in the United States. However, marketing materials that cover imported products or products made from imported fabrics must make clear disclosures in compliance with the Textile Act and Textile Rules."
As it has with other types of "made in USA" claims, the letter offered to work with companies to help them "craft appropriate claims" that comply with the Textile Act and Textile Rules, convey non-deceptive information to consumers, and highlight work done in the United States.
While the FTC has long (and aggressively) gone after companies for making "made in USA" claims that do not comply with its Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims, we haven't seen the FTC pay as much attention to companies' compliance with the Textile Act and Textile Rules. With all of the attention that the FTC has been paying to "made in USA" claims lately, this may be a sign that the FTC is expanding its enforcement program and will now be looking more closely at textile marketers.
"These requirements apply regardless of whether products originated in the United States or abroad"