FTC codifies its Enforcement policy for “Made in the USA” Claims; False “Made in the USA” Claims May Now Result in a Monetary PenaltyJuly 20, 2021
On July 1, 2021, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced the availability of the pre-publication of the final rule on “Made in USA” (MUSA) claims in the Federal Register. The final rule was published on July 14, 2021. We previously reported on events that resulted in this rule.
FTC received more than 700 comments in response to the notice of proposed rulemaking from individuals, industry groups, consumer organizations, and members of Congress. FTC concluded that none of the comments provided a compelling basis to change the substantive requirements of the proposed rule.
The rule does not set a new standard for MUSA claims. Instead, it authorizes FTC to seek not only an injunction but also civil penalties of up to $43,280 per violation of the final rule.
The new rule applies not only to product labeling, but to any “mail order catalog” or “mail order promotional material” that includes a seal, mark, tag, or stamp that labels a product as having been made in the United States. Mail order catalogs and promotional material are defined as “any materials, used in the direct sale or direct offering for sale of any product or service, that are disseminated in print or by electronic means, and that solicit the purchase of such product or service by mail, telephone, electronic mail, or some other method without examining the actual product purchased.”
As we previously reported, two Commissioners did not support the proposed rule and questioned FTC’s application of the rule to materials that did not appear to constitute labels, such as mail order catalogs. In the preamble to the final rule, FTC concludes that the final rule does not cover MUSA claims in all advertising. Instead, it covers labels appearing in all contexts, whether, for example, they appear on product packaging or online. FTC does not clarify the definition of labels and we anticipate that the meaning of that term will become a topic of discussion when FTC asserts that a Company is liable under the new rule for a claim appearing in a context that arguably does not constitute a “label.”
Some notes about the final rule:
- It applies only to unqualified MUSA label claims. For false or misleading qualified MUSA claims, FTC authority remains limited to injunctive relief.
- It includes a list of equivalents to “Made in USA” in 16 C.F.R. § 323.1 (listing “made,” “manufactured,” “built,” “produced,” “created,” or “crafted” in the United States or in America). However, this list is not exhaustive.
- The final rule does not supersede, alter, or affect the application of any other federal statute or regulation relating to country-of-origin labeling requirements, including but not limited to regulations issued under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act.; or the Egg Products Inspection Act. As readers of our blog know, “Product of USA” and other country of origin labeling issues on meat and poultry products have been an issue of discussion in recent years. Last year, in response to a Petition regarding such claims, USDA committed to rulemaking to address the voluntary use of “Product of USA” claims on meat and poultry. On July 1, 2021, USDA announced its plan to initiate a top-to-bottom review of “Product of USA” claims. (Incidentally, earlier in June, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association submitted a Petition to USDA requesting notice and comment rulemaking regarding “Product of USA” claims on beef products).
- The effective date of the rule is Aug. 13, 2021.