Hoover’s Made in USA Claims
October 22nd, 2020
Editor’s Note: Updates have been posted at the end of this article.
Ads that take viewers inside American factories to show American workers talking about American manufacturing are not hard to come by these days.
In countless closing letters to marketers regarding made in the USA claims, the FTC has said there’s nothing wrong with promoting the fact that a company employs workers and assembles products in the United States.” The problem is many companies overstate the extent to which their products are “made” in America.
Take the Hoover YouTube video above, titled “Made in the USA Meet the people behind Hoover PowerDash,” which also appears on the Hoover website. In the video, an employee at Hoover’s manufacturing facility in Cookeville, Tennessee, says in reference to the carpet cleaner:
When it says “made in America,” I take pride in the fact that it’s made in Cookeville, that it’s made here, that we made it.
This is immediately followed by another factory worker who, echoing consumer attitudes toward American-made products, says:
It makes me want to purchase that specific product because I know that my people made this.
Thing is, the carpet cleaner does not seem to meet the FTC’s legal standard to be marketed as made in the USA, which the FTC has said likely conveys that the advertised product is “all or virtually all” made in the United States. This conclusion is based on the fact that Hoover adds the qualifying language “With Globally Sourced Components” to a “Made in the USA” label that makes a few (inconspicuous) appearances in the YouTube video.
Disappearing fine print
While this qualifying language may be legible (but still easy to miss) at the very end of the YouTube video when the camera zooms in on the label, the fine print is impossible to discern on the Hoover homepage. Here’s how the label appears in a slider of “Featured Products” on the homepage that includes the PowerDash carpet cleaner:
The qualifying language appears larger on the PowerDash product page (by virtue of the label being larger) but it may still go undetected. In addition, visitors to the product page must click “Show More” under “Features” for “Made in USA *with globally sourced components” to become visible at the bottom of the list.
The FTC requires that qualifying language in modified U.S.-origin claims be clear and conspicuous “to avoid consumer deception about the presence or amount of foreign content.” So, if the amount of foreign content in the Hoover PowerDash is more than “negligible,” it’s a problem that consumers may miss or can’t read the qualifier.
It remains a mystery what the globally sourced components in the carpet cleaner are. TINA.org posed the question, among others, in a request for comment to Hoover. We have yet to hear back.
TINA.org’s inquiry into Hoover’s made in the USA badge comes five years after we found similar issues with the design of Walmart’s USA labels.
As part of the Walmart investigation, TINA.org retained a visual perception expert, who concluded that the retailer’s USA labels were “not effective in ensuring that consumers who shop at Walmart.com can be confident that they know what they are buying.” Following our investigation, TINA.org filed a complaint against Walmart with the FTC, which, three months later, issued a closing letter to the company.
Find more of our coverage on made in the USA claims here.
UPDATE 1/19/21: Following the publication of this ad alert, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Hoover’s parent company raising similar concerns with the size and placement of the qualifying language in Hoover’s USA label. The lawsuit alleges that the company receives “most” of the parts and components for its vacuum cleaners from China. Also following the publication of this article, Hoover added a disclaimer to the product page of the carpet cleaner seen above telling consumers to “check packaging for country of origin information.”