A proposed class action alleges the “Made in the USA” seal displayed on Hoover vacuums is misleading to consumers in that the products are, in truth, only assembled in the United States with “globally sourced components.”
Although defendant Royal Appliance Mfg. Co. discloses, albeit in “much smaller, less conspicuous” font, that Hoover vacuums are made with parts not derived from the United States, the “with globally sourced components” statement, the 13-page lawsuit argues, is not enough to “adequately qualify” the claim that the products are “Made in the USA,” and thus amounts to a “false, deceptive and misleading” representation.
“Defendant receives most of the parts and components for the Products from China, as revealed by a search of United States Customs records,” the complaint out of New York’s Southern District Court says.
The case alleges Royal Appliance’s marketing of Hoover vacuum cleaners “seeks to take advantage” of the sentiment that buying products made in the United States supports American jobs and companies. As the lawsuit puts it, the defendant’s representation that Hoover vacuums are “Made in the USA” with “Globally Sourced Components” is misleading in that it “blurs the distinction between manufacturing and assembly of the components.”
“Defendant misrepresented the Product through affirmative statements and omissions,” the suit charges. “Defendant sold more units of the Product and at higher prices than it would have in the absence of the misrepresentations and omissions, resulting in additional profits at the expense of consumers like plaintiff.”
Royal Appliance Mfg. Co.’s website and other marketing materials focus on Hoover vacuums’ American origins, the suit begins. In a video, workers at the defendant’s Cookeville, Tennessee facility state, “When it says ‘made in America,’ I take pride in the fact that it’s made in Cookeville, that it’s made here, that we made it,” the lawsuit says.
According to the suit, however, customs records show that the defendant imports the “globally sourced components,” designated with the Harmonized System code 8509.90, used to make the vacuums. The complaint says that the company that exports the Hoover vacuum components from China to the U.S. is Royal Appliance Mfg. Co.’s parent company, a Hong Kong-headquartered firm called Techtonic Industries.
To label a product with an unqualified “Made in the USA” tag, the product must have undergone a “substantial transformation,” the case contends. For Hoover vacuums, “most to all” of the inputs for the product are made in other countries, even though the final product may be assembled in the United States, the lawsuit says.
The distinction between “made” in the United States and merely “assembled” here is the crux of the lawsuit.
“Defendant does not obtain raw materials from other countries which it converts into parts which will eventually become the vacuum cleaners purchased by plaintiff and consumers,” the complaint reads. “The name, form and character of each component of the Products remain unchanged after they are assembled into the finished vacuum cleaners.”
A more accurate representation of Hoover vacuums would be to say that they were “Assembled in the USA,” the suit avers, asserting that the “globally sourced parts” descriptor is “true, yet also misleading.”
From the complaint:
“While there is no requirement that Defendant disclose – beyond where it is required to – that most of the components may come from China – once Defendant has chosen to speak on the matter of the Products’ origins, it is required to not be misleading.
Through the prominent and conspicuous ‘Made in the USA’ claim, Defendant has sought to appeal to Americans who want to keep jobs in this country.”
The plaintiff, a New York consumer, says she bought the defendant’s Hoover PowerDash GO Pet+ Spot Cleaner based on the “Made in the USA” representation.
The lawsuit looks to cover consumers in New York who bought a Hoover brand product within the applicable statute of limitations period.
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