False and misleading "Made in USA" claims have been a mainstay of Federal Trade Commission enforcement for many years. Just at the end of December, the FTC reached its largest-ever "Made in USA" settlement (which required a $1.2M payment), resolving allegations that glue maker Chemence, Inc. deceived consumers about whether its products are made in the United States. And in June, departing from its years-old approach to enforcement in this area, the FTC proposed a new "Made in USA" rule for product labels and mail-order advertising, which would codify the principles set forth in the FTC's long-standing Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims.
Should we expect this level of attention to "Made in USA" claims during the Biden Administration? Based on what I've read in the Biden Plan, which includes detailed proposals for how to support American manufacturing, it seems pretty clear that enforcement related to deceptive "Made in USA" claims is only going to increase.
In his Plan, Biden specifically says that he's going to target false advertising relating to "Made in USA" claims. He said that he wants to "end false advertising" relating to "Made in USA" claims by cracking down on "companies that label products as Made in America even if they're coming from China or elsewhere."
Biden also called out the FTC for not imposing penalties on a company that made false "Made in USA" claims, suggesting that a Biden Administration is going to be looking not only for aggressive enforcement, but for tougher penalties to back it up. (For more information about this issue, here's a blog post discussing statements by Commissioners Rohit Chopra and Rebecca Kelly Slaughter that urge the FTC to take a tougher stand.)
Biden also said in his Plan that he's going to tighten up the "Buy American Act" -- which applies to "Made in USA" claims made in connection with federal procurement -- to require products to include more legitimate American content. He said that these changes are required so that, "when we deem something made in America, it reflects the work and output of American workers." (For more information about this issue, here's a blog post about FTC enforcement related to the Buy American Act, and how its rules conflict with the FTC's "Made in USA" standards.)
"U.S. manufacturing was the Arsenal of Democracy in World War II, and must be part of the Arsenal of American Prosperity today, helping fuel an economic recovery for working families" -- President-Elect Joe Biden