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FTC Responds to Industry Request Regarding "Made in USA" Claims

Responding to an industry request for an advisory opinion regarding recycled metals, the Federal Trade Commission stated that unless a marketer can substantiate that all components of a product – including natural resources – originated in the U.S. it should not advertise the product as “Made in the USA.”  The FTC issued its response on Sept. 9. 

In June of this year, four trade associations—the Jeweler’s Vigilance Committee, MJSA, Jewelers of America, and the American Gem Trade Association—and the Richline Group requested an advisory opinion from the FTC stating that jewelry composed of metals recycled in this country could be advertised as “Made in the USA.”  The FTC’s standard for advertising a product with that term is that the product must be “all or virtually all” made in the United States.  “All or virtually all” means that all significant parts and processing that go into the product must be of U.S. origin.  Marketers advertising a product as “Made in the USA” must be able to substantiate the claim.  For products made of precious metal this can be very difficult, either because the metal was mined abroad or because the origin of the metal is unknown. 

The trade associations and Richline asked the FTC to focus on products made from metal recycled in this country, and to allow those products to be advertised as “Made in the USA.”  The request for the advisory opinion was based on the fact that upon recycling in the U.S., metal begins a new life cycle, with a new origin in this country, regardless of where it was originally mined.

In its response, the FTC cited available consumer research showing that almost 3 in 5 Americans believe that “Made in America” means that all parts of a product, including any natural resources it contains, originated in the U.S.  The research also showed that 33 percent of consumers believe that 100 percent of a product must originate in a country for that product to be called “Made” in that country.

The FTC included in its response that its staff is available to help craft qualified claims that avoid deception while highlighting the work done to recycle precious metal in this country.

The trade associations and Richline are considering further steps, in accordance with the FTC’s response.  That response, as well as the original request, have been posted on the public Commission Website at  

http://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/closing-letters-and-other-public-statements/staff-closing-letters.

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