An investigation is underway regarding New Balance’s brand of “Made in the USA” running shoes. If the investigation turns up fruitful results, it could lead to a large California class action against the shoe manufacturer. New Balance’s “Made in the USA” marketing campaign was launched in an effort to differentiate the brand from similar athletic wear companies like Nike and Adidas.
In a bid to stand apart from competitors, New Balance tapped into an interesting patriotic niche in the American market. Consumer surveys have shown that people are generally more likely to buy a product labeled “Made in the USA” than a similar, foreign product based on a belief that the American-made product is of a higher quality. Similarly, consumers have said that they are more likely to buy American-made products from a humanitarian standpoint out of concern for the treatment of foreign laborers. Lastly, many Americans believe that buying American-made products helps to support the American economy.
However, despite New Balance’s assurances that its products are made in the United States, initial investigations have revealed that only about 25% of New Balance running shoes are actually manufactured in the USA. Many speculate that New Balance has avoided running afoul of federal law by taking advantage of vague language in the law that states that “virtually all” components making up the product must be manufactured and assembled in America. However, unlike federal law, California state law is far stricter in its regulation of what products can be labeled “made in the USA.” Under California law, only products in which all components are made in the USA can bear the label.
As the investigation of New Balance products continues, it will soon become apparent if the facts support a class suit on behalf of consumers who purchased the products based on the belief that they were made in America.
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