The Federal Trade Commission today proposed amending its Appliance Labeling Rule to allow appliance manufacturers to place energy use labels required by the Canadian and Mexican governments directly adjoining the Commission's required EnergyGuide label. The rule currently prohibits placing non-required information "on or directly adjoining" the EnergyGuide. The proposal was in response to a request from the Whirlpool Corporation. Under the proposal, manufacturers would still be prohibited from placing other information on or directly adjoining the EnergyGuide. The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking will be published in the Federal Register on Feb. 22. Comments will be accepted for 45 days, until April 8.
The FTC's Appliance Labeling Rule, in effect since 1980, is designed to help consumers comparison shop for energy-efficient appliances. Among other things, it requires manufacturers to attach, to most major home appliances, "EnergyGuide" labels that provide an estimate of the product's annual energy consumption or energy efficiency. In July 1994, the FTC amended the rule in several respects, including changes to simplify the EnergyGuide and make it easier for consumers to use.
In July 1995, Whirlpool Corporation asked the FTC for permission to use hang tag EnergyGuide labels with the corresponding appliance energy use labels required by Canada (called "EnerGuides") printed on the reverse side. Whirlpool also asked to use a single, one-sided label showing the EnergyGuide next to or above the appropriately corresponding Canadian EnerGuide and/or the energy use label required by Mexico. Noting that the existence of separate appliance labeling requirements among the USA, Canada and Mexico represents an obstacle to free trade among the signatories to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Whirlpool stated that substantial progress has nevertheless been made in the harmonization of U.S. and Canadian energy standards, test procedures, energy use descriptors, product classes, and safety codes. Whirlpool suggested that consolidation of the three countries' labels onto a single label would be another significant step towards free trade in the appliance manufacturing sector.
In proposing the amendment, the Commission noted that showing the labels of two or all three of the NAFTA countries printed on the same label stock would be consistent with the NAFTA goal of removing unnecessary impediments to trade among the three countries. The Commission also observed that U.S. consumers may not be confused or misled by the presence of multiple appliance energy use labels because the Commission's EnergyGuide is clearly identified as being based on U.S. Standard Government Tests and is the only label of the three that is printed in English only.
The Commission vote to propose amending the Appliance Rule was 5-0.
Copies of the Federal Register notice are available from the FTC's Public Reference Branch, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-326-2222; TTY for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest FTC news as it is announced, call the FTC's NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. FTC news releases and other materials also are available on the Internet at the FTC's World Wide Web Site at: http://www.ftc.gov
(FTC Matter No. R611004)