Truthinadvertising.org (TINA.org) filed a complaint Tuesday to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Williams-Sonoma Inc. over deceptive Made in USA marketing statements, according to a press release. The complaint alleges that hundreds of statements found in Williams-Sonoma brands’ marketing materials are deceptive in nature, claiming products are made or crafted in the USA "despite the fact that many of its products are imported or made with imported materials, according to origin information inconspicuously provided on the company’s various websites." Williams-Sonoma brands include Williams-Sonoma Home, Pottery Barn, PBteen, Pottery Barn Kids, Rejuvenation and West Elm, and the complaint amassed more than 800 examples of deceptive statements across all websites.
Total Retail's Take: Williams-Sonoma has previously been investigated by the FTC over potentially deceptive U.S.-origin claims on the PBTeen.com website, according to FTC documents from June 2018. The brand made efforts to correct the errors and the FTC dropped its inquiry last year, but it seems the retailer may be once again presenting consumers with false product origin statements across all its brands. Consumers are increasingly aware of and interested in where brands manufacture products, and they expect Made in the USA claims to be true. Regardless of the FTC's response or the outcome of TINA.org's complaint, Williams-Sonoma figures to be dealing with upset consumers who feel cheated and mislead about the origin of the retailer's products. TINA.org identified how origin information was hidden from consumers and made difficult to find on the brands’ product information pages, while larger graphics and eye-catching statements claiming products are "Crafted in USA" quickly grabbed shoppers’ attention. The consumer watchdog also detailed how marketing material from Williams-Sonoma "uses several terms to convey that its products are made in the USA — including artisanal-sounding words such as “benchmade,” “handcrafted” and “crafted” — when frequently that is not the case."
Kristina Stidham is the digital content manager at Total Retail and sister brand Women in Retail Leadership Circle. She is passionate about digital media and handles social media, video, and podcast production for both brands, as well as contributing articles and attending events. Kristina holds a B.A. in Media Studies and Production from the Temple University Klein College of Media and Communication in Philadelphia.