On May 11, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) took action against apparel company Lions Not Sheep Products LLC and its owner Sean Whalen for falsely claiming that its imported apparel is made in the USA.
According to the FTC’s complaint, the company added fake “Made in USA” labels to clothing and accessories imported from China and other countries. The FTC’s proposed demand instructs Lions Not Sheep and Whalen to stop making fake made-in-America claims, be truthful about its foreign production, and pay a monetary judgment.
Sam Levine, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, says, “Companies that slap phony Made in USA labels on imported goods are cheating their customers and undercutting honest businesses, and we will hold those companies and their executives accountable for their misconduct. American consumers have the right to know the truth about where their clothes and accessories are made.”
Lions Not Sheep claims and the FTC order
Utah-based Lions Not Sheep is an apparel company that sells T-shirts, hats, hoodies, and outerwear via its website, Amazon and Etsy.
According to a press release from the FTC, the company and its owner Whalen marketed the brand via social media channels, saying it would “show people it’s possible to live your life as a LION, Not a sheep.”
The release states the brand’s made-in-USA claims online and on product labels as follows:
- “Made in the USA”
- “Made in America”
- “Are your products USA Made?”
- “100% AMERICAN MADE”
- “BEST DAMN AMERICAN MADE GEAR ON THE PLANET”
The FTC states that in most cases, the products advertised by Lions Not Sheep with these claims include wholly imported shirts and hats with limited finishing work performed in the U.S.
The complaint alleges that on Oct. 8, 2020, Whalen published a video of himself on his social media accounts with the title MADE IN AMERICA! alongside a Chinese flag. In the video, Whalen said he could conceal the fact that his shirts are made in China by ripping out the origin tags and replacing them with labels stating the merchandise was made in the U.S.
According to the complaint, between May 10, 2021, and Oct. 21, 2021, Whalen and Lions Not Sheep removed tags disclosing that merchandise was made in a foreign country and printed “Made in USA” on the neck of the shirts.
The proposed order settling the FTC’s complaints against Whalen and Lions Not Sheep prohibits the actions alleged in the complaint. The order demands Whalen and Lions Not Sheep pay a judgment of $211,335; stop claiming products are made in the U.S. unless they can show proof of assembly and processing; and disclose the extent to which products contain foreign parts, ingredients, components, or processing.
The FTC asks that Whalen and Lions Not Sheep submit compliance reports for any products labeled as made in the USA.
The FTC’s Enforcement Policy Statement on U.S. Origin Claims provides further guidance on making non-deceptive made-in-the-USA claims.
The commission vote to issue the complaint and accept the consent agreement was 4-0.
When the commission issues a consent order on a final basis, it carries the force of law concerning future actions. Each violation of an order may result in a civil penalty of up to $46,517.