In August 2023, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) finalized a complaint and order against Chaucer Accessories, Inc. and two other companies owned by Thomas P. Bates for falsely labeling belts, shoes, and other products as “Made in the USA” (MUSA). The order includes a monetary judgment of $191,481.
According to FTC, the New England-based companies regularly claimed that certain products were MUSA, even though these products were wholly or largely imported. In other instances, the companies claimed that certain belts were “Made in the USA from Global Materials,” when in reality, the companies merely affixed buckles to imported belt straps. FTC alleged three violations of section 5(a) of the Federal Trade Commission Act: one violation for the false MUSA claims, one violation for the false MUSA from global materials claim, and one violation for distributing the false claims to resellers for their use in the resale of the products.
In addition to the monetary judgment, the order places restrictions on the companies and Bates on making unqualified MUSA claims, prohibits them from misrepresenting their products’ country of origin or providing others the means to make misrepresentations and imposes requirements for qualified MUSA claims and assembly claims. The companies must also notify affected customers of the violations and provide FTC with sufficient customer information for the Commission to administer customer redress.