Merkley Introduces Bill to Require Online Sellers to Disclose Product Country of Origin Information

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley today introduced the Transparency in Online Retailing Act of 2019, which would require online retailers to provide country of origin information for each of their products – information already required in stores – on their websites.

“I personally discovered the difficulty of finding Made In America products online when I went to buy my wife boots as a gift. I made a point of purchasing from a company that advertised their Made In America products, but when the boots arrived, my wife and I were both disappointed to see them stamped with the words, ‘Made In China,’” Merkley said. “Producers are already required by law to disclose the country of origin of their products with easily legible markers, but unless websites include that information in their product descriptions, consumers have no way of knowing where things are made. Every year, more and more Americans are shopping online. It’s time for Congress to make sure Americans have the information they need to make an educated decision, regardless of whether they’re in a brick-and-mortar store or shopping from home.”

In March 2019, the Census Bureau announced that total e-commerce sales for 2018 were estimated at $513.6 billion, which amounts to 9.7 percent of total U.S. sales, and an increase of 14.2 percent from 2017. Under current law, products must be marked with their country of origin “in a conspicuous place” – but these labels are often not visible in product photos and not included in written product descriptions.

The Transparency in Online Retailing Act updates existing disclosure legislation to require that all articles of foreign origin imported in the United States and sold on an online marketplace are marked with the country of origin on the seller’s website. This new disclosure requirement would be enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, which would be responsible for imposing penalties on online retailers that fail to disclose country of origin information to consumers.

The full text of the Transparency in Online Retailing Act of 2019 is available here.