FTC fines Williams Sonoma $3.17 million for violating made-in-USA order

Record penalty stems from 2020 order regarding the labeling of where products are made

WASHINGTON — The Federal Trade Commission announced that lifestyle furniture and home products retailer Williams Sonoma will be required to pay a $3.175 million fine for violating a 2020 FTC order requiring the company be transparent in where its products were made, including relating to statements that they were made in the U.S.

The agency sued the company in 2020 and charged that it advertised multiple product lines under its Goldtouch, Rejuvenation, Pottery Barn Teen and Pottery Barn Kids brands as being all or virtually all made in the U.S. However, the FTC learned that the products were not made in the U.S. as advertised and said the company agreed to an FTC order that required them to stop the claims and follow Made in USA requirements. These requirements state that “all significant parts, processing and labor that go into the product must be of U.S. origin” to be labeled as made in the U.S.

The most recent action stems from a complaint that advertising watchdog group Truth In Advertising filed with the FTC in July 2023 based on a tip from a consumer that purchased a Pottery Barn Teen mattress pad that was advertised online as “Crafted in America from domestic and imported materials.” TINA said the consumer bought the mattress pad because it was advertised as made in the U.S. but later found it was labeled made in China after they received it.  

The FTC said this is the largest-ever civil penalty in a Made in USA case.

“Williams Sonoma was put on notice several years ago that it was deceiving consumers with misleading Made in USA marketing,” said TINA.org Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “We hope this recent action will send a strong message that there’s a price to pay for such deception.”

In addition to the civil penalty, the settlement requires that Williams Sonoma submit annual compliance certifications and follow a number of requirements about its claims the company makes, which the FTC said reinforces requirements from its 2020 order.

These requirements include:

+ Restrictions on unqualified claims: Williams Sonoma will be prohibited from making unqualified U.S.-origin claims for any product, unless it can show that the product’s final assembly or processing — and all significant processing — takes place in the U.S. and that all or virtually all ingredients or components of the product are made and sourced in the U.S.

+ Requirements for qualified claims: The company is required to include in any qualified Made in USA claims a clear and conspicuous disclosure about the extent to which the product contains foreign parts, ingredients or components, or processing.

+ Requirements for assembly claims: The company must also ensure, when claiming a product is assembled in the U.S., that it is last substantially transformed in the U.S., its principal assembly takes place in the U.S., and U.S. assembly operations are substantial.

The civil penalty aims to send a strong message to U.S. business about the importance of truth in advertising regarding the country of origin for various products.

“Williams Sonoma claimed its products were made in the United States even though they were made in China,” said FTC Chair Lina M. Khan. “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.”

Williams Sonoma has not responded to a request for comment.

Thomas Russell

Home News Now Editor-in-Chief Thomas Russell has covered the furniture industry for 25 years at various daily and weekly consumer and trade publications. He can be reached at tom@homenewsnow.com and at 336-508-4616.

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