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COOL Online Act Proposes Updating Labeling Laws for E-Commerce Era

Made in USA
Websites are not required to show a product’s country of origin because labeling laws were written before internet shopping existed. This bipartisan proposal would ensure that online retailers abide by the same rules as brick-and-mortar stores.

U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Rick Scott (R-FL) are proposing a bipartisan solution in their COOL Online Act to ensure that all goods sold online list their country of origin to protect Americans’ right to know where the products they buy are made and to help promote goods that are made in America.

Image: Tashatuvango/Adobe Stock

U.S. country-of-origin labeling laws require products to display their country of origin prominently. In brick-and-mortar stores, consumers can pick up any product and read the country-of-origin information on the label, but that’s not possible when shopping online: Websites do not display a product’s country of origin because labeling laws were written prior to internet shopping. At most, the item’s description will say “imported.” Some will say made in USA, but that’s less common.

The share of retail sales made via e-commerce has steadily increased each year, and COVID-19 will accelerate that trend, notes the proposal. Consumer interest in made-in-USA products has spiked, as Americans want to support American industries during this crisis.

The Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) Online Act would increase transparency by updating labeling laws for the e-commerce era, so online shoppers have the same access to country-of-origin and seller location information that in-person shoppers do. The legislation is also sponsored by Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Kelly Loeffler (R-GA).

“Regardless of whether shopping online or in a store, Americans have a right to know whether the products they buy are being made right here in America, by American workers,” said Sen. Baldwin. “My bipartisan legislation will fix our outdated labeling laws to promote transparency for Americans shopping online, and to help boost the American businesses and manufacturers selling their goods through online retailers.”

Sen. Scott commented, “American consumers should know where the products they buy are made. I’m proud to partner with Senator Baldwin on the COOL Online Act as we work to create more transparency in the online retail space so consumers can make informed choices for themselves and their families.”

Specifically, the bill requires:

  • The country-of-origin labeling for a product, as required by existing law, be clearly and conspicuously stated in the website’s description of the product.
  • Clear disclosure of the country in which the seller of the product is located (and if applicable, the country in which any parent corporation of such seller is located) in the online product listing.

The COOL Online Act is supported by the Alliance for American Manufacturing, Coalition for a Prosperous America, Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group, and U.S. Public Interest Research Group.

Scott Paul, President of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said, “We applaud Senator Tammy Baldwin and Senator Rick Scott for introducing the COOL Online Act. By giving online shoppers information about where a product is being made and where the seller is located, consumers will be well-positioned to support the U.S. economy and create more jobs for American workers. It is long overdue that Congress close this loophole, and we are grateful to Senators Baldwin and Scott for leading the way.”

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