Lawsuit Accuses Home Depot Of Violating Buy American Act

Home Depot is taking legal heat for possibly violating the Buy American Act of 1933, which requires that materials used to build public construction products come from the U.S. The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating the company due to accusations that it purchases products from China and other foreign countries, and offers those products to government agencies online.

The AP reports that half the products on the site are allegedly from foreign countries. The DOJ has not yet decided whether it will join an existing whistle-blower suit filed by several attorneys. In the past few years, Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax have paid a total of $22 million to settle claims that it violated the act. Damages from such suits are split between those filing the suit and the government.

A Home Depot spokesman said the company’s detractors don’t see the facts correctly:

“We would never knowingly sell prohibited goods under any circumstances, and we have been cooperating with the government to provide requested information. We believe the plaintiffs have an inaccurate view of the facts, so we look forward to presenting our side of this case as the process moves forward.’

When you’re shopping, how important is it to you where the products were made?

Home Depot accused of violating Buy American Act [AP via MSN Money]
(Thanks, Chris!)


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  1. ebonythunder - Don't worry, I'm from the Internet. says:

    A: “Not very”.

    I’ve been selling stuff at flea markets and had buyers change their mind when they realize the *item* i’m selling is “Made In China”. They usually go off on an incoherent, racist tangent. I ignore them.

    I guess my point is, some people really do care.

    • Jawaka says:

      It wanting to buy American in order to help your own country and economy considered racist?

      • ebonythunder - Don't worry, I'm from the Internet. says:

        Not what I said, but sorry if it sounded that way.

        No, it’s just my experience that when I do meet people who insist on buying american, it’s for the wrong reasons. If you want to support America, awesome. If you just REALLY hate Chinese people, I’m less enthusiastic about that.

        • Kate says:

          Or possible you don’t want to deal with products from a country that has little or no safety regulations.

      • Cerne says:

        because bringing back crappy, minimum wage manufacturing jobs while tripling the price for many consumer goods will help America.

    • ajlei says:

      I’m not against Chinese people (my entire stepfamily is Chinese) but I just don’t expect anything labeled “Made in China” to be very high quality. Example: my grandmother had a can opener for decades that worked great, decades old as it was. I went to buy a new one that was “made in China” and it stopped working right after a few months.

      Obviously that’s just an anecdote, but I think the general idea still stands. At the same time though, cheap can be better than quality. But no, my dislike for Chinese wares does not step from hating the Chinese people.

      • ajlei says:

        Stem*, not step.

        • exit322 says:

          Agreed – I’ve got nothing against the place, but I try to avoid made-in-china stuff, just for the quality.

      • AwesomeJerkface says:

        So no iPods for you?

        I’ve always found quality to be more related to manufacturing than origin of manufacturing.

        For instance, a pair of Skull Candy earbuds ($14) from Target suck compared to these wooden and gold-tipped earbuds from Kanen ($3) as reviewed by

        Poor design, cheaply made, inconsistent reproduction, poor quality checks, or any other process fault is a greater factor in overall quality than origin.

        I always think of that scene in Back To The Future when Marty talks about how awesome Japanese products are and everyone looks at him like he’s an idiot.

      • kobresia says:

        It’s not so much a matter of quality lately, as “what chemicals is the product contaminated with?”

        There’s a pretty valid concern with building materials, since that Chinese drywall fiasco and who knows what problems there might be with potable water plumbing fixtures made in China, though excessive lead leaching might be the most obvious concern. One thing is certain, the Chinese factories’ innovations in cutting corners and lack of concern over producing toxic, tainted products is rather amazing. It’s also a very compelling argument for not buying anything from China.

    • Bob says:

      That’s the spirit! We should all shut up and buy poorly made Chinese goods instead of quality goods made elsewhere! Anything else is un-American, right!

      • Cerne says:

        Yes because being made in China automatically makes it inferior quality!

      • jvanbrecht says:

        Because everything made in China is crap…. That is basically what you are saying..

        Which is totally incorrect. The Chinese (and pretty much every other country where products are made, India, Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea, etc) make the products to the specifications and cost factors provided by the company who designed the product.

        Apple products are made by Foxxcon in China, for the most part, extremely high quality.

        The problem is actually you.. you want everything perfect and high quality, and you want it really cheap.. Guess what, that is what you are going to get, no matter where it is made. Chevy.. it’s made in the US.. and most of their vehicles are garbage, cheaply made using cheap materials.. guess what, you wanted a car for $12k Chevy Aveo..

        The point I am making is… you get what you pay for, and the Chinese manufacturers are more then happy to make quality products, if that is what they are paid to make.. else you get cheap crap.

    • jesirose says:

      Out of curiosity, when you say flea market, do you mean artist’s fair or something? Are you selling stuff that LOOKS like you could have made it? Because if you’re going to a place where the rest of the booths have stuff people made, and you’re selling chinese stuff, that would upset people. If it really is a flea market, plenty of other people would have made-in-china crap and no one would care…

  2. Max Headroom says:

    In this economy, I am willing to bet more of us don’t care where it’s made, we need cheaper items to avoid forgoing on necessities.

    • Marlin says:

      Problem is when the economy gets bad buying good made in your contry is what you should do.

      Hard for someone to buy your service/good if you don’t buy theirs, just on a bigger scale of course.

  3. shepd says:

    Publicly enforcing trade sanctions is never a good idea (just like trade sanctions themselves aren’t a good idea unless you’re at war, and a real war, not like the one you guys have with Cuba). I expect this will be buried very fast.

    • ajlei says:

      Well, the law’s been around for 80 years, so I’m not sure about how fast it’ll be buried…

      • shepd says:

        The law’s been around, it’s the awareness of it to people in other countries that’s important. Not just to the managers of disenfranchised factories, but the public in general of countries that get hurt by this. Lawsuits generally make things obvious and therefore might get into the public spotlight outside the US, which could be bad.

        • psm321 says:

          nobody (politicians) seems to complain when China does it

          • shepd says:

            They’re big business enough to boss other countries around at the moment, so they can do as they please. The US only exports a very few things of consequence to other countries, most of which they could do without if they needed to. There was a time the US mattered to the world, but that’s long gone (along with so many US jobs). All that’s left now is the US Army. Oh well… Don’t worry, it’s the same story (minus the Army) up in Canada, too, although we do have some key oil and wood exports.

            • psm321 says:

              the army is going to do great in an actual full-scale war without any domestic manufacturing to back it up

  4. Marlin says:

    I try and buy US all the time.
    My hand tools are mostly american as the overseas ones are junk and don;t hold up. So spend the money for a good tool once or keep spending $5-10 each time for the same tool over and over. Let alone the down time from havign to go get it.

    Lowes Kobalt tools use to be good now they are cheap junk. The wrenchs are just awful now.

    • chrisb71 says:

      Then you are not really buying “American” as much as you are buying quality. For some products, American made is really better. Most of my tradesmen friends tell me the same about tools, and factory floor tools and tables. A few years ago we learned even wood and wallboard and other products can be horrible depending on where they are from.

      But for many consumer products, it’s the opposite. So it really depends on the product.

      I think the real spirit of America is to reward the best quality work. Which sometimes is made somewhere else. Hard and good work should be rewarded. Rewarding substandard work is not American at all, in my opinion.

      • Marlin says:

        I can only think of several companies I would go for that do not make their products in the US and they are all European. Can’t think of a single Asian company I would take over another US/European company.

        • AwesomeJerkface says:

          Unless you personally manufactured and assembled your computer, I find that a hard pill to swallow.

          Even if you bought a computer from an American brand, it’s likely assembled with some Asian parts.

          Even if you built your own computer, there are likely parts made outside of Asia or even South America. Intel chips for instance, account for 20% of Costa Rican exports and 4.9% of their GDP.

          • Marlin says:

            I take it english is not your native lang? As I am not sure how you got I do not buy any asian items from “I try and buy US all the time.” or “Can’t think of a single Asian company I would take over another US/European company.”

        • AwesomeJerkface says:

          Oh and my point was that even if you can only think of several brands yourself, you probably support numerous brands with manufacturing origins outside of the US or Europe more than you realize.

          Not that I don’t believe you make strong efforts.

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    Where products are made are moderately important to me.

    Not necessarily to support American manufactures (which, I guess, I should) but in an effort to get the best products.

    I avoid anything involving food consumption, storage, or preparation that is made from China. Same with cat toys. I also know that some products, like Levi’s jeans, are made in a variety of countries. There is a consensus online that ones made in Mexico don’t fit as accurately as others made over seas.

    So for quality of some products, yes, I keep an eye out for where it is made.

    • incident_man says:

      I quit buying Levi’s once production was moved out of the US. Same price for made in a different country? No thanks.

  6. XanthorXIII says:

    How about we also have a law about Outsourcing as well. You know to go hand and hand with this one.

    • Cerne says:

      Because economies only improve when the government interferes more?

    • Theoncomingstorm says:

      Force a company to move their manufacturing outfit to the US, hire US employees, US employees demand a higher wage, employer increases retail prices to maintain profit margin. At some point the price may become too high for most people to purchase the product and the business closes. Now any jobs that there were in the US are gone.

  7. chrisb71 says:

    It is almost impossible to determine what is made in america anymore. Toyota Tundras are more made in america than the average GM or Chrysler vehicle, and Hyunadais make more cars here than even Ford does.

    What is ridiculous is tax dollars used to pay more for products which are the same or worse, simply because of where they are made. How is it “american” to prop up failing companies and poor workmanship?

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      “It is almost impossible to determine what is made in america anymore.”

      For a new car, it’s incredibly easy to determine country-of-origin. There’s virtually always a breakdown of part content by country, as well as major components.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        You are correct. I think Chris’ statement would have been more accurate as, “It is almost impossible to assume country of manufacture based on the country in which the parent company is primarily based.”

  8. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I try to buy American whenever possible but unfortunately, each year it gets increasingly difficult.

    Yes, I could save a few bucks and buy a set of Chinese brake pads but I’m not really saving any money when they wear out in 20,000 miles.

  9. econobiker says:

    It is not the specific country of origin that matters- it is that the country of origin does not have the environmental and social support systems that our country has and therefore can underp-rice the manufacturing of goods. This allows capitalists to run around saying that our 1st world country wages costs too much so they have to export manufacturing. Everything has a price and the Chinese (gov’t/capitalists) are exploiting their people and environment.

    Maybe there should be an environmental and social equalization fee put to goods imported from offshore US which would show the actual cost of the goods and equalize the cost. The fee should go into a fund for future environmental help to the countries of origin of the goods.

    As for the actual environment, I foresee the Chinese, etc coming to the UN a couple of decades in the future requesting help for mitigating the environment disasters in their countries. And the US will be on the major hook for this. By this time the Wal-marts etc will have taken profits and forced manufacturing to the Sudan or Somalia or some other downtrodden corner of the globe.

    • OSAM says:

      Ah, thinly veiled racism.

      No no, do go on…

    • rmorin says:

      You don’t get it. People do not work in sweatshops/factories because they are forced to, they work in them because they are desperately poor. The alternative is almost always no job. It is a terrible lifestyle that I would never want to have, but compared to what? Starving? Turning to crime?

      I am not defending outsourcing because of its effect on american people, but to say that Wal-Mart is having a negative effect on the quality of life for the poorer countries their distributors outsource to shows how naive you are about the world. You think that someone in the poorest parts of the world can walk into a mcdonalds and work 8 hours a day making 8 bucks an hour? NO! They do not have the options we do, so when it comes to no job, or work 6 days a week for 10 hours a day in a factory sewing buttons onto coats, if that is what you have to do to survive you do it. You can argue for days that “they can afford to pay more” but that is another issue entirely. Demand sets the wage scale. Don’t worry, even people in the third world know when a job is not worth doing for the money being paid.

      P.S. forced labor is another however it is a separate issue then with the presence of third world factories making our goods.

      • econobiker says:

        Just because some people are desperately poor workers in countries with governments which allow toxic waste dumping into regular rivers does not mean that the US consumer should sit by and let corporations manufacture goods at those 3rd world wages and sell the goods at 1st world prices.

        The Chinese governments response to both bird flu outbreaks and counterfeit (legal) drug manufacturing should be a warning alone in how these conditions can affect us in the long run.

        • Theoncomingstorm says:

          We are not letting them sell their goods at 1st world prices, that prices would be at least two times higher. I couldn’t afford to pay for 100% american made clothes, tools, and most anything else.
          Our companies moved their operations overseas in order to maintain their prices at the time.

  10. It's not fun. It's not funny. says:

    “In the past few years, Staples, Office Depot and OfficeMax have paid a total of $22 million to settle claims that it violated the act.”

    Without admitting or denying any wrongdoing, like, I’m sure. Earn $100,000,000 in a fraudulent manner and pay $22,000,000 back. Nice, if you have ZERO morals or ethics.

  11. barty says:

    A few years ago, I really didn’t care where it was made. As long as it was relatively inexpensive and did the job, I’d buy it.

    Now, I’m getting weary of having to replace said items every few years because of cheaply made/manufactured components that can’t be easily sourced and render an entire product useless as a result. So now with most tools, appliances, etc., I do look and see where it is made. While I realize it isn’t foolproof, I think I have reached the point where I’m willing to spend a little extra money to buy something that will last 15-20 years.

    One problem I’ve experienced in this quest is that many US/Japanese/German, etc., name brands have acquired other made in China/Taiwan/Mexico, etc., brands and stick their label on it. Why they would want to de-value their reputation by putting their name on sub-standard junk is beyond me.

  12. PBallRaven says:

    A: Very important. I don’t buy made in china if I can possibly avoid it, even if I do pay more. Some things it’s almost impossible to find not made in china. And it’s nothing to do with race.

  13. pot_roast says:

    “When you’re shopping, how important is it to you where the products were made?”

    I’ll pick products made in the United States when given the choice. In my experience, if the product fails, at least I have someone I can call about it.

  14. AwesomeJerkface says:

    I try to buy American whenever possible because it’s part of also buying as much locally produced goods as possible. Whether it’s food, craft, furniture, electronics, or juice.

    It’s part environmentalism, and part helping local economy.

    Unfortunately for something like electronics, it’s impossible to avoid “Made In China”. It’s also an ancient and moot point that if it’s “Made In China” then it must be of lesser quality, particularly in electronics.

    Whether it’s LG, Samsung, Apple, Panasonic, Hitachi, Seagate, Western Digital, or whatever, many of those products are manufactured by the same handful of companies and sold under separate brands. For instance, with monitors, each brand typically uses the same back displays. Harddrive sellers also use the same manufacturers. Apple iPods? Their requirements for quality and non-disclosure allegedly drove someone at one of their manufacturers in China to Suicide.

    Cheap plastic from China isn’t all that different than cheap plastic from the US. Then again, I’m not in the habit of buying cheap plastic anything when I can. Regardless of origin, I’ve never really come across quality “cheap plastic”.

  15. Scamazon says:

    Sounds like the government is nit picking its fights. What of the tech companies the government deals with whose entire product line is made in China and Malaysia? The Government has been behind the rapid outsourcing of American products for over 10 years now. The entire bay bridge structure in California is being manufactured in China. It seems the only thing we manufacture in the good old USA is overhead and propaganda…

  16. plasmatop says:

    It is important to know the origination of building materials. Just look at the Chinese drywall fiasco; what a nightmare. There just are not the same guidelines over there that there are over here.

  17. Cerne says:

    Oh my god Home Depot violated a 78 year old, unjust law!

    This is just one reason why very single law should need to be re-passed after 10 years or automatically expire.

  18. AnthonyC says:

    Not even the slightest bit. I care about quality, ecological impact, and any ethical implications of supporting different suppliers, but there is no particular reason for me to prefer domestically produced goods. Anything not covered by the criteria I mentioned above must mean I value US production inherently more than I do that of any other country. Why would I do that? Do babies born in Asia and Europe grow up to be less valuable human beings, less worthy of gainful employment, than those in the US? Am I really to prefer, say, Boeing to Airbus if Airbus were to make an equal- or higher-quality plane at a lower price? And really, what defines where something is made? Much of what I buy is invented in Boston or California by a company owned by people in the US and Japan; built in China using materials from China, Southeast Asia, and the Middle East; and supported after I buy it by call centers in India.

  19. u1itn0w2day says:

    Isn’t this in reguards to tax dollars paying for something like drywall for a public housing project compared to a tool made in China an individual might buy for the home.

    And shouldn’t the contractor or government employee who orders/buys the stuff off of Home Depot ensure it’s made in the US. Unless the contract is set up that Home Depot has the discretion to fill the order this should be on the government worker or end user.

  20. SocialCow says:

    If these government agencies are required to buy US made products, then I guess DOJ should sue those agencies and not the salesman!

    It is out of touch with reality that people say we should buy things made in the US, protectionism doesn’t work, it’s a fact and it is tried everyday in every country around the world. How would you like if China decided not to buy US made goods??? A great number of our exports in key industries, like energy, are tied to China!

    Everyone talks about chinese made products like they are the worse. The truth is they are some of the best right now, mainly because that’s the only place making them. Eventually China will price itself out of the market and there will be another “China” for some to complain about. A product made in the US, Europe or China will still fail you if it is made cheaply, you are at fault because you talk more about buying US products than what you really buy.

  21. donovanr says:

    Given the choice between Chinese and not Chinese I will buy not Chinese every time. I just bought tennis balls made in the Philippines for 6.99 to avoid Chinese ones for 2.99 and 4.99.
    Ideally I search for German made, Japanese made, then other European made, Canadian made, and finally American made. After that anything not Chinese will do.
    Don’t trust it don’t want it.

  22. Eggman9713 says:

    I don’t see how Home Depot could be at fault here except for one possible case. I am an engineer and work on a lot of government and ARRA/Buy American building projects. It is normally up to the contractor to ensure that all items used comply with the Buy American Act (unless it has a waiver, but thats another story). Now, if the contractors specifically gave HD a purchase order stipulating BAA compliant materials for an order, the contractor has a lawsuit against HD, and the government maybe against the contractor (but if the situation is remedied they should be all okie dokie). I highly doubt the Government has any contract with HD to enforce this. If HD misrepresented that stuff is compliant when it is not, the Government only has the contractor to go after (since they are the ones that were hired to build it) and in turn, the contractor goes after HD for damages.

  23. guspaz says:

    A: Somewhat. Given the choice, I’d rather buy Canadian products rather than Chinese or American, but I don’t go out of my way to avoid foreign products.