The Federal Trade Commission has approved, and will publish in the Federal Register, a Final Rule and Supplemental Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (SNPR) in connection with the Commission's Rule Relating to Power Output Claims for Amplifiers Utilized in Home Entertainment Products - the "Amplifier Rule." The Rule, which has been in effect since 1974, assists consumers by standardizing the measurement and disclosure of power, distortion and other performance characteristics of amplifiers in stereos and other home entertainment equipment. The Final Rule clarifies the testing procedure for self-powered speakers, and eliminates or modifies certain testing and disclosure requirements that have outlived their usefulness to consumers. The SNPR seeks comment on proposed revisions to the Rule's testing procedures to provide appropriate power output ratings for the recently introduced class of "home theater" receivers that incorporate five or more channels of amplification.
As part of its ongoing review of rules and regulations, the FTC published a notice in the Federal Register in April 1997, seeking comment on whether to repeal, modify or expand the Amplifier Rule. In the July 9, 1998 Federal Register, the Commission announced that the Rule would be retained, and issued a clarifying non-substantive amendment that added self-powered speakers for use in home computer and sound systems to the list of examples of covered sound power amplification equipment provided in the Rule. The Commission also published on the same date an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. The Commission subsequently issued in the July 19, 1999 Federal Register a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPR) that solicited public comment on specific proposed amendments to the Rule to:
reduce the power output requirement during the one-hour preconditioning period from one-third of rated output to one-eighth of rated output, and grant testers of self-powered subwoofers the discretion to choose the frequency of the test signal to be used during the preconditioning period;
exempt advertising disseminated through the media from disclosure of total rated harmonic distortion and the associated power bandwidth and impedance ratings when a power output claim is made; and
allow the subwoofer and satellite amplifier sections in combination self-powered speaker systems to be driven to full rated power separately, rather than simultaneously, during the power rating tests.
The Final Rule, which will be published in the Federal Register, adopts these amendments as proposed in the NPR.
The SNPR concerns a class of audio equipment that did not exist when the Commission initiated its review of the Amplifier Rule in 1997. Due to recent advances in digital processing technology, consumers can now purchase home theater receivers (also known as audio/video receivers) that will decode complex digital signals on movie soundtracks and send discrete amplified signals to five or more loudspeakers strategically located around the listening room.
Under the Rule, all "associated channels" of an amplifier must be driven to full rated power simultaneously during the power measurement tests. Accordingly, the Commission is soliciting public comment on three alternative methods for designating "associated channels" for multichannel receivers and power amplifiers.
The SNPR enumerates three alternative definitions of "associated channels" and solicits public comment on which of these definitions would provide consumers with the most useful specifications for maximum per-channel power output. In each case, the SNPR asks commenters to consider whether actual in-home use commonly would require the channels that are defined as "associated" to deliver full rated power simultaneously when reproducing movie soundtracks or music program material at high playback volumes.
Written comments on the proposals contained in the SNPR will be accepted until February 23, 2001. Since written comments appear adequate to present the views of all interested parties, a public hearing has not been scheduled. The Federal Register notice, however, includes instructions for prospective witnesses and other interested persons who would like to participate in a hearing where oral testimony could be presented. Requests to present oral testimony also will be accepted until February 23, 2001.
Written comments and requests to testify should be addressed to: Office of the Secretary, Federal Trade Commission, Room H-159, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20580, and should be identified as "16 CFR Part 432 Comment -- Amplifier Rule," and "16 CFR Part 432 Request to Testify -- Amplifier Rule," respectively.
The Commission vote to publish the Final Rule and the SNPR in the Federal Register was 5-0.
Copies of the full text of the Final Rule, the SNPR and other documents related to the rulemaking proceeding available from the FTC's web site at http://www.ftc.gov and also from the FTC's Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 877-FTC-HELP (877-382-4357); TDD for the hearing impaired 1-866-653-4261. To find out the latest news as it is announced, call the FTC NewsPhone recording at 202-326-2710. The FTC works for the consumer to prevent fraudulent, deceptive and unfair business practices in the marketplace and to provide information to help consumers spot, stop and avoid them. To file a complaint, or to get free information on any of 150 consumer topics, call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), or use the complaint form at https://www.ftc.gov/ftc/complaint.htm. The FTC enters Internet, telemarketing and other fraud-related complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to hundreds of civil and criminal law enforcement agencies worldwide.
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(FTC Matter No. P974222)