Summary of Action
TINA.org investigated Walmart’s website – www.walmart.com – and found that it was riddled with false and deceptive Made in the USA representations. Specifically, TINA.org found that Walmart’s website:
- Displayed USA labels, as well as specifications that indicated the products are made in the USA, for products that are actually made in foreign countries or contain foreign parts;
- Displayed USA labels that conflicted with information contained in the specifications for the same product;
- Displayed USA labels that, in some cases, did not clearly or prominently disclose important qualifying language that only a certain percentage (50%+, 75%+, or 90%+) of the product is made in the United States, or that the product is just assembled, but not made, in the United States.
TINA.org originally compiled 100 examples of such errors, as well as an expert report by a visual perception and Web interface specialist in support of its contentions.
As a result of these findings, TINA.org sent a letter to Walmart’s CEO, General Counsel, and Chief Marketing Officer on June 22, 2015 alerting them to the issues and requesting that the company confirm in writing within the week that Walmart intended to remove all false and deceptive USA representations from its website and other marketing materials.
On June 24, 2015, Walmart’s Vice President of U.S. Sourcing sent a letter to TINA.org stating, among other things, that the company was taking steps to ensure that the misrepresentations would be corrected and that it was also “undertaking a more extensive quality assurance review to eliminate these kinds of coding errors in the future.” In further communications with TINA.org, a company official indicated that Walmart was in the process of revamping the way in which online products are labeled as Made or Assembled in the USA, as well as editing the design of the labels themselves, and that the process would be complete within two weeks.
As of July 13, 2015, Walmart had made limited progress in removing false USA labels from the website, but numerous issues remained. In fact, in July 2015, TINA.org found an additional 100 USA misrepresentations on Walmart.com. Accordingly, on July 14, 2015, TINA.org filed a complaint letter with the Federal Trade Commission requesting that it take action to halt Walmart’s false and deceptive marketing. As a result of TINA.org’s complaint, Walmart then removed the vast majority of USA labels from its website, without any official action from the FTC.
On October 20, 2015, the FTC — which investigated Walmart after receiving TINA.org’s complaint — notified the company that it would not be pursuing further action due to Walmart’s assurance that it had removed all U.S.-origin representations from its website. A review of the company’s website by TINA.org, however, revealed that some USA misrepresentations still exist as of October 23, 2015, prompting TINA.org to alert the company, as well as the FTC. TINA.org also sent a letter to the FTC on November 12, 2015 regarding Walmart’s new Made in the USA disclaimer, which is practically and legally ineffective, and urging the agency to take further action.
A year after its initial warning letter to Walmart, TINA.org reinvestigated the company’s website – www.walmart.com – and found that the site still contains Made in the USA misrepresentations, despite Walmart’s numerous assurances that it had fully corrected the issue last year. Specifically, TINA.org compiled a new sampling of over 100 Made in the USA errors on www.walmart.com, prompting TINA.org to notify the FTC of its findings and urging immediate action.
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