A new class action lawsuit is going after New Balance’s use of the phrase “Made in USA.”
New Balance customers on Monday filed a complaint in a U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against the footwear maker regarding its shoes that feature the phrase “Made in USA.” The plaintiffs allege that the products that bear this tagline are not entirely made in the USA, which makes the marketing misleading. The complaint, which includes over 100 members, is seeking $5 million in damages.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says that any product that bears words “Made in USA” must be made “all or virtually all” in the U.S. The suit alleges that this is not the case with New Balance.
“New Balance sells several models of footwear that prominently claim to be ‘Made in USA,'” reads the complaint. “However, the sneakers have as much as 30% of their components made outside of the United States—including the sole of the sneakers, which is an important aspect of the shoes.”
According to the complaints, the plaintiffs would not have purchased the sneakers if they knew that the shoes were not entirely made in the U.S. Additionally, the plaintiffs argue that they were deceived into paying a price premium for products they believed to be entirely made in the U.S.
“New Balance takes pride in our longstanding commitment to domestic manufacturing — it is a valued part of our heritage and culture,” New Balance told FN in a statement. “Our four New England-based factories currently employ approximately 1,000 Americans who work to produce our athletic footwear. Our brand’s success has been built and sustained by our unwavering belief that making things matters and by the craftsmanship of the men and women who work in our factories.”
The complaint noted that in 1996, the FTC notified New Balance about its deceptive claim of its shoes being “Made in USA” and also highlighted another class action settlement in 2019 over the same issue.
New Balance does include a small print disclaimer on its website and its packaging that says the shoes “contain a domestic value of 70% or greater.” But according to the complaint, “No reasonable consumer would expect that small print language on the underside of a packaging or hid in assorted places on a website contain language inconsistent with the representations that the sneakers were ‘Made in the USA.'”
In a statement, New Balance said it aims to to be “transparent in all consumer communications, prominently disclosing that where domestic value is at least 70%, the brand’s footwear is labeled Made in the USA.”