Walmart’s website may now seem a little less patriotic than it has in recent years. An inquiry by the Federal Trade Commission has forced the retail giant to remove “Made in the U.S.A.” labels from much of its merchandise and from product descriptions on the site.
This is a big blow to the company’s image as an American workers-focused corporation, which it has been trying to bolster amid criticisms over its reputation as a responsible corporate citizen. Two years ago, Walmart began a 10-year plan to increase spending on products from U.S. factories by $250 billion, and it holds an annual meeting on domestic manufacturing.
However, the watchdog nonprofit Truth in Advertising issued a report in June saying it found more than 100 items that misled consumers with false “Made in the U.S.A.” labels. Some of the items were not actually made in the United States, and in other cases, the group said, it was not clear what the labels indicated.
After the report, the FTC launched an investigation, and on Tuesday the agency sent a letter to Walmart’s associate general counsel saying the inquiry was closed. This decision comes after Walmart removed the “Made in the U.S.A." logos from all product listings on its website, removed U.S.-origin claims in product descriptions and titles, removed country-of-origin information from all products except when required by law, and established a procedure to note and remove new U.S.-origin claims in ad copy submitted by suppliers.
The letter also says that, in response to the FTC investigation, Walmart redesigned the “Made in the U.S.A.” logos for its private-label items to include larger disclosures about how much of the product is made in the U.S. and that the U.S.-origin claim is self-certified by the manufacturing factory.
When the Truth in Advertising report came out over the summer, Walmart told Fortune that “a small percentage of items” had incorrect “Made in the U.S.A.” labels due to coding errors. But the company sounds pretty happy with the FTC decision now.
"We are pleased with the FTC’s decision and appreciate its thorough review of our program," Walmart said in a statement, according to the Washington Post. "We’re committed to reviewing and strengthening our processes to help ensure customers have a great experience on our website and can find the products and information they are looking for."