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Are New Balance's Made in USA sneakers really Made in the USA?

Not entirely, according to a lawsuit filed against the brand this week

Are New Balance's Made in USA sneakers really Made in the USA? Not entirely, according to a lawsuit filed against the brand this week

New Balance has become the protagonist of a class action filed in Massachusetts federal court accusing the brand of falsely indicating that some of its sneakers are Made in the USA when around 30% of those same sneakers are produced abroad using foreign workers. The prosecution, Matthew Cristostomo, Anthony Bollini, Spencer Verrilla, Derrick Evans, Clifton Bradley and Robert Kaminsky, claim that the brand is using symbols such as the American flag and the made in USA wording on both sneakers and packaging in a misleading way «because consumers are willing to pay more for products that they believe are actually made in the United States». Given that part of the production of its sneakers takes place outside the United States, the plaintiffs argue that New Balance's sneakers do not correspond to the legally established definition of "Made in USA", which requires that products marketed as "made in America" or "made in USA" must be made in their entirety within the United States.

Specifically, according to the plaintiffs, New Balance would import the soles of the sneakers from two Chinese suppliers – something that would be highlighted in a disclaimer written in a tiny font on the bottom of the packaging and in some parts of their site which, however, according to the accusation, would be insufficient as «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». Among other things, Cristostomo and the other plaintiffs allege that New Balance is knowingly violating Federal Trade Commission rules after the federal consumer agency filed a class action against the brand in 1996 for such a misleading claim, and subsequently entering into a settlement for consumers who purchased New Balance footwear between January 2012 and January 2019. 

According to a representative of the brand told The Fashion Law that «New Balance seeks to be transparent in all consumer communications, prominently disclosing that where domestic value is at least 70 percent, the brand’s footwear is labeled Made in the USA». Last September, among other things, the association Truth in Advertisting Inc. published an article in which he made similar accusations against New Balance, taking legal action against the Boston brand through the Federal Trade Commission. All this after this summer the FTC has applied a strict legislative tightening on wordings such as Made in usa and the like establishing fines that can reach up to $ 43,280 for each violation. According to Truth in Advertising:

«If each of those pairs is accompanied by at least one made in the USA label that violates the rule, New Balance could be facing more than $175 billion in fines for a single year».