Concurring Statement of
Regarding Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims
File No. P89-4219
Today the Commission restores the "Made in USA" standard to the highly demanding level that we affirmed in 1994. The Commission's action reinstates the longstanding principle that an unqualified U.S. origin claim is a claim that the product is made entirely in the United States except for a de minimis or negligible amount of foreign content. By explaining the factors that the Commission will consider in assessing whether an unqualified "Made in USA" claim is deceptive, and whether the public interest warrants enforcement action, the Policy Statement provides guidance that should reduce the costs of making "Made in USA" claims that comply with Section 5 of the FTC Act. The current state of consumer perception and the benefits and costs of various "Made in USA" standards have been exhaustively investigated. With the issuance of this Policy Statement, I expect to see the traditional "Made in USA" standard enforced, now that we no longer labor under the self-imposed moratorium that consumed several years while we explored various policy options.
The broad review initiated by a majority of the Commission in 1995 produced a reasonable alternative approach based on copy test evidence showing that significant minorities of consumers took contradictory meanings from unqualified "Made in USA" claims. As I stated when we proposed the Guides for comment, the "substantially all" standard created by the Guides appeared to strike the correct balance between contradictory consumer understandings of "Made in USA" so as to minimize overall consumer injury from deception. Today's action illustrates the value of seeking public comment when the Commission elects to fashion a compromise through an expansive review similar to a rulemaking, rather than base its findings of deception on evidence and interpretations tested during litigation and the pursuit of negotiated orders.
Intense public interest in "Made in USA" claims inspired more individual consumer comments than we have received in almost any other comment period during my tenure at the Commission. These comments -- which demonstrate that consumers who believe that "Made in USA" means all or virtually all made in the United States are highly motivated to act on their belief -- justify redrawing the balance that the proposed Guides attempted to strike. These consumers want to be able to rely on a simple and clear standard, and their awareness of the globalization of the economy evidently has not changed their beliefs about domestic origin claims. The Policy Statement also wisely confines the Commission's guidance to general principles and, as I clearly prefer, leaves for case-by-case resolution more complex issues that may turn on variations in claims and products.