LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Shoppers looking for a bargain often hunt outlets hoping to score quality designer brands for a fraction of the original price.

What if manufacturers were making low-quality goods to sell specifically at the outlets? It’s something four members of Congress are calling on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate.

The members of Congress, including Rep. Anna Eshoo of California’s 18th District, sent a letter to the FTC Thursday that reads, in part, “Historically, outlets offered excess inventory and slightly damaged goods that retailers were unable to sell at regular stores. Today, however, some analysts estimate that upwards of 85 percent of the merchandise sold in outlet stores was manufactured exclusively for these stores.”

These lawmakers say that outlet-specific merchandise is often of lower quality than goods sold at non-outlet retail locations.

Outlet shopper Crystal Munoz said she never imagined big-label brands sold at outlets could be anything other than what she’d find at a mall.

“I come here to save money because I think I’m buying quality name brands for a cheaper price,”Munoz said. “Obviously, if I’m hearing that I’m not too happy.”

Some stores use different labels to distinguish merchandise created specifically for outlets. But the stores that don’t leave customers at a loss when it comes to determining the quality of those supposed brand names.

“I’d rather buy the good stuff in the long run because it will last me longer,” shopper Patrick Garcia said.

Lawmakers say they’re not opposed to the type of merchandise offered at outlets. They just want to make sure consumers know what they’re buying.

“If it’s brought up to someone’s attention, I’m sure they would make a different decision if they knew that information beforehand,” Munoz said. “I’m glad someone said something about it because, if not, no one would know.”


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