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Group seeks tougher penalties for firms that cheat on 'made in USA'

The Federal Trade Commission included illustrations from the

The Federal Trade Commission included illustrations from the website of Farmingdale-based Patriot Puck in its complaint. Source: FTC - Bureau of Consumer Protection bzPUCK180913 Credit: FTC - Bureau of Consumer Protect

The Alliance for American Manufacturing submitted a petition Friday urging the Federal Trade Commission to "impose tougher penalties" on companies that mislead consumers into believing their products are "100% made in America." 

Patriot Puck, a now-defunct Farmingale business, came under fire in September when the FTC issued a complaint against its owner, George Statler III,   alleging false claims about ice hockey gear the company promoted as "Proudly Made in the USA" but that was in fact made in China. 

In a September telephone interview, Statler said he settled with the FTC because of the legal expense to fight such an action, but described what happened as "unfair" and "not right." 

Jesus Espinoza, a spokesman for the Alliance for American Manufacturing, a Washington, D.C., based nonprofit that advocates support of American manufacturers, said that "what's not right is for companies to lie to American consumers by slapping a 'made in America' label on products that are actually not made here." 

"Companies want to market their goods as 'American made' because they're well aware of just how valuable the 'made in the USA' label really is," Espinoza said. "They know that American consumers think of American-made items as being of a higher quality than those made in places like China and that they're willing to pay more for them too." 

The alliance cited Patriot Puck as an example of a company that it feels the FTC was too lenient with.

FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra issued a statement in September in which he questioned whether no-money, no-fault settlements such as Patriot Puck's are appropriate when dealing with serious violations of the FTC's "Made in USA" standard.  

Chopra's statement names Patriot Puck, and notes that companies that cheat distort the market.  Such firms "rip off Americans who prefer buying domestic goods" and "punish firms that may bear higher costs to produce goods here, yet must compete on price or branding with firms that cheat,"  he wrote.

Going forward, Chopra suggested that the commission consider remedies tailored to the individual circumstances of the fraud, including redress and notice for consumers, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, opt-in return programs, or admissions of wrongdoing, instead of "simple" cease-and-desist orders. 

The settlement with Patriot Puck did not include monetary relief, notice to consumers, or any admission of wrongdoing, according to the statement. 

In September, Statler said he closed his companies over the summer but planned to introduce a new, American-made hockey puck in six months. 

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