Williams-Sonoma agrees to pay $1M for false 'Made in USA' claims
Williams-Sonoma says it will no longer make false “Made in USA” marketing claims. The San Francisco-based home goods retailer, owner of brands including Pottery Barn and West Elm, has settled with the Federal Trade Commission and will pay $1 million as part of the agreement.
The FTC had received a series of complaints in 2018 that Williams-Sonoma was referring to a Pottery Barn-branded mattress as “crafted in America from local and imported materials,” though the item was actually made in China. The retailer corrected the error, but last year, a new complaint arose from watchdog group Truth in Advertising around Williams-Sonoma’s Goldtouch Bakeware, Rejuvenation-branded products and some of its Pottery Barn upholstered furniture.
On Williams-Sonoma’s website and in its catalog, several products were listed as being made in America or made in the USA, yet most used imported materials. To be able to use the “Made in USA” claim, a brand must “show that the product’s final assembly or processing—and all significant processing—takes place in the United States, and that all or virtually all components of the products are made and sourced in the United States,” according to the FTC.
“Many of us want to buy products that are made in the USA, and we trust companies like Williams-Sonoma to tell us the truth,” said Andrew Smith, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, in a statement.
Last year, Truth in Advertising asked the FTC to better regulate false or misleading "Made in USA" claims, including more guidance and enforcement. At a time when consumers are purposely seeking out more domestic-made products, legal experts have said brands need advice on how best to represent their USA-based offerings in a way that does not conflict with the strengthened FTC rules.
For the fiscal year ended Feb. 2, Williams-Sonoma reported a 4 percent increase in net revenue to $5.9 billion after what it called a “strong holiday season.” Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company closed all stores March 17 with a goal to reopen April 2.