Walmart has pledged billions of dollars in support of American manufacturing, yet it’s hawking foreign-produced products as U.S.A.-made, according to Truth in Advertising. The Madison, Conn.–based watchdog group says the retailer’s website contains more than 100 examples of “false and deceptive” “made in the U.S.A.” representations that contravened both the Federal Trade Commission’s specifications and Walmart’s own voluntary standards. Among the leading offenders, per TINA, are Walmart’s store-brand “Equate” makeup sponges, which TINA says were given a “made in the U.S.A.” label online despite product labels that state they were “made in China.”
“False “made in the U.S.A.’ labeling on Walmart’s website has misled consumers looking to purchase American-made products,” Bonnie Patten, executive director of TINA, said in a statement. “The largest retailer in the world should have made sure its American-made claims were accurate before affixing ‘made in the U.S.A.’ labels on its products.”
TINA also noted that Walmart does little to differentiate between “made in the U.S.A.” and “assembled in the U.S.A.,” even though the terms mean very different things in the eyes of Uncle Sam.
Further complicating the apparent interchangeability of the language is the design of Walmart’s suite of “made in the U.S.A.” and “assembled in the U.S.A.” badges, which TINA says use hard-to-read fine print to qualify a product’s percentage of domestically produced components.
“The fact that the label has several variants, some meaning the same thing and some meaning different things, also compromises their intelligibility—the ability of consumers to understand what they mean,” Jeff Johnson, a visual perception and web interface expert who reviewed Walmart’s website for TINA, wrote in his report. “For example, even if a customer notices that products on Walmart.com can have ‘made in’ or ‘assembled in; labels, they might not understand what ‘assembled’ means compared to ‘made.'”
“RIDDLED WITH ERRORS”
TINA alerted Walmart to its findings in a letter it sent to company officials on June 22. Although the retailer acknowledged the blunders in response, it also blamed supplier changes, coding errors, and the “convoluted process” in which U.S.A. labels and products are handled online for the mistakes associated with a “small percentage” of its products.
Walmart has since some of the erroneous labels, but TINA says the website is still “riddled with errors.”
The company has also added a disclaimer to the webpage, stating that although it strives to obtain accurate product information, it “cannot guarantee or ensure” the accuracy, completeness, or timeliness of any product information.
“Until Walmart cleans up this mess, consumers should be cautious when shopping on the site,” Patten added.