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Department of Justice: Williams-Sonoma Faces $3.2 Million Fine for False ‘Made in the USA’ Claims

Luxury home goods company Williams-Sonoma is facing a hefty fine for falsely claiming that some of its products are “Made in the USA.” This marks the second time the company has had to settle over mislabeling claims, with the Department of Justice (DOJ) announcing that Williams-Sonoma has agreed to pay a record $3.18 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Headquartered in San Francisco, Williams-Sonoma owns several well-known brands such as Pottery Barn, West Elm, and Rejuvenation. In 2020, the company paid $1 million for similar false label accusations. However, it seems that Williams-Sonoma continued to mislead consumers by mislabeling items even after the initial settlement.

One particular instance involves the advertising of PBTeen mattress pads between April 2022 and August 2023. Despite being “wholly imported” from China, the company labeled these products as “crafted in America from domestic and imported materials.” Additionally, the FTC probe discovered six products on Williams-Sonoma’s official website that were either imported or contained significant imported content but were falsely advertised as “Made in the USA.”

FTC Chair Lina Khan expressed her disappointment with Williams-Sonoma’s deceptive practices, stating, “Williams-Sonoma’s deception misled consumers and harmed honest American businesses. Today’s record-setting civil penalty makes clear that firms committing Made-in-USA fraud will not get a free pass.”

This case is not an isolated incident in the retail industry. In January 2023, the FTC settled a similar case involving Instant Brands, the maker of Pyrex kitchenware. Instant Brands had falsely advertised some of its bakeware products as American-made when they had actually shifted production to China due to increased demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The demand for American-made products has remained strong despite various economic challenges. A Morning Consult survey conducted in June 2023 revealed that nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers actively seek out “Made in America” products. This preference for domestically manufactured goods has persisted despite rising inflation, interest rates, and recent instability in the banking sector.

In response to the Williams-Sonoma case, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, emphasized their commitment to stopping deceptive advertisers. Boynton stated, “The Justice Department will vigorously enforce laws to stop misleading and fraudulent claims to sell products.”

Williams-Sonoma has not responded to requests for comment from NTD. However, the company has admitted the truth of the allegations made against them according to the DOJ. As part of the settlement, Williams-Sonoma must also certify its compliance with record-keeping and reporting obligations for the next five years.

This case serves as a reminder that consumers place value on products that are genuinely made in the USA. Companies must be held accountable for their labeling practices to maintain consumer trust and protect American businesses. The DOJ’s actions against Williams-Sonoma and other similar cases send a clear message that misleading advertising will not be tolerated.

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