Controls proposed for using Vermont’s name

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(Host) The Attorney General’s office is asking the public to sign off on an effort to tighten the state’s consumer fraud regulations. The state wants to make it clear to shoppers and businesses what it means when Vermont’s name appears on a product label or in an advertisement.

VPR’s Steve Zind reports.

(Zind) Vermont’s name is a marketing plus. From cheddar cheese to wooden bowls, ‘made in Vermont’ is a selling point that companies don’t hesitate to advertise. The name is so attractive that businesses with no connection to Vermont have tried to cash in on it.

A Wisconsin wood products manufacturer, a Canadian cheese maker and a New Jersey soda company have all run afoul of the Attorney General’s office by claiming their products were made in Vermont, when they were actually produced somewhere else.

(Burg) “And we’ve had other cases along the way that suggested pretty strongly that there was a need to make clear for businesses and for consumers what it means to use the word ‘Vermont’ when you’re describing or product or when you’re naming a company or providing a trade name on a label or advertising.”

(Zind) Assistant Attorney General Elliot Burg says the state wants to tighten the consumer fraud regulations to clarify how Vermont’s name can be used. The proposed changes eliminate some gray areas by specifically requiring that Vermont labeled products that are associated with the state, like dairy and maple products be made from Vermont ingredients.

Other Vermont labeled products like beer or dressings don’t need to include Vermont ingredients, but must be processed in-state.

So, Vermont Cider has to be made from Vermont Apples. Vermont Salsa doesn’t have to contain Vermont grown tomatoes but does need to be made in Vermont.

Also, under the proposed rule if the word ‘Vermont’ is used in the company name, but the product isn’t made in Vermont, that must be made clear on the label. Burg says the new rule may make it easier for the state to pursue offenders, but the idea is to avoid future lawsuits.

(Burg) “The hope is that the rule will make it less likely that we have to take legal action and more likely that businesses will plan in advance and do their advertising labeling in a completely non-deceptive way.”

(Zind) Burg says Vermont’s consumer fraud regulations apply only to products sold in Vermont. He won’t speculate on how many, or which companies may be in violation if the new rule is instituted. There will be a public hearing on the proposed changes to the consumer fraud regulations on March 8 in Montpelier.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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