What the Rule Requires
- Who Must Comply
- How Penalties Are Assessed
What Automotive Fuels are Covered
- Alternative Liquid Automotive Fuels
- Is Diesel Covered?
- The Automotive Fuel Rating
- Refiners, Importers, and Producers of Automotive Fuel
- Rating Determination
- Rating Certification
- Distributors of Automotive Fuel
- Rating Certification
- Retailers of Automotive Fuel
- Rating Posting
- Ethanol Flex Fuels
- Biodiesel, Biomass-Based Diesel, and Their Blends
- Other Alternative Liquid Automotive Fuels
The FTC prepared this guide to help you comply with the Automotive Fuel Ratings, Certification and Posting Rule, also known as the Fuel Rating Rule. The Rule covers the sale and transfer of liquid automotive fuel.
The Rule does not affect a producer’s and marketer’s ability to develop and blend fuels that are consistent with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and original equipment manufacturer requirements. The Rule is designed to ensure that producers and marketers give consumers the information they need to make smart liquid fuel-purchasing decisions.
This guide summarizes the Fuel Rating Rule and answers commonly-asked questions.
What the Rule Requires
If you are a fuel refiner, importer, producer, distributor, or retailer of liquid automotive fuel (with the exception of diesel fuels that contain less than 5 percent biodiesel and less than 5 percent bio-mass based diesel)), you must comply with the Rule’s rating determination, certification, posting, and recordkeeping requirements.
Who Must Comply
Refiners, importers, producers, distributors, and retailers of automotive fuel must comply with the Fuel Rating Rule.
How Penalties are Assessed
The FTC can sue violators of the Fuel Rating Rule in Federal court. The court can impose civil penalties of up to $50,120 for each violation. The court also can issue an order prohibiting further violations, and other relief, including redress.
What Automotive Fuels are Covered?
The Rule covers liquid fuels distributed for use in motor vehicles. The automotive fuels covered by the Rule include, but are not limited to:
- Reformulated gasoline
- Oxygenated gasoline
Alternative Liquid Automotive Fuels
- Ethanol Flex Fuels, meaning gasoline and ethanol mixtures of more than 10% but not greater than 83% ethanol by volume
- Biodiesel and biodiesel blends containing more than 5% biodiesel by volume
- Biomass-based diesel and biomass-based diesel blends containing more than 5% biomass-based diesel by volume
- Methanol, denatured ethanol, and other alcohols
- Mixtures containing 85% or more by volume of methanol, denatured ethanol, and/or other alcohols (or such other percentage as determined by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy to provide for requirements relating to cold starts, safety, or vehicle functions), with gasoline or other fuels
- Liquefied natural gas
- Liquefied petroleum gas
- Coal-derived liquid fuels
Is Diesel Fuel Covered?
Generally, the Rule does not cover petroleum-derived diesel fuel. However, the Rule does cover biodiesel and biomass-based diesel as well as biodiesel blends and biomass-based diesel blends that contain more than 5 percent by volume of biodiesel or biomass-based diesel.
The Automotive Fuel Rating
The automotive fuel rating differs for different types of fuel. For:
- gasoline, the automotive fuel rating is the octane rating.
- ethanol flex fuels, it is a disclosure of the ethanol content, expressed as a percentage of volume. It is accompanied by the text “Use Only in Flex-Fuel Vehicles/May Harm Other Engines.”
- biomass-based diesel, biodiesel, biomass-based diesel blends with more than 5% biomass-based diesel, and biodiesel blends with more than 5% percent biodiesel, the rating is a disclosure of the biomass-based diesel or biodiesel component, expressed as the percentage by volume.
- an alternative liquid automotive fuel, it is the commonly-used name of the fuel along with a disclosure of the amount, expressed as a minimum percentage by volume, of the principal component of the fuel. A disclosure of other components, expressed as a minimum percentage by volume, may be included on the dispenser label, if desired. For example, a blend of 85 % methanol and 15 % gasoline, may have a rating of “M-85, Minimum 85% Ethanol.”
How to Comply
The Fuel Rating Rule is divided into sections based on industry categories, including refiner, distributor, or retailer. The following summary is divided by similar headings. See section 306.2 of the FTC Fuel Rating Rule for more information.
Refiners, Importers, and Producers of Automotive Fuel
If you are a refiner, importer or producer, you must determine the automotive fuel rating of all automotive fuel before you transfer it.
To determine the automotive fuel rating of gasoline (the octane rating), add the research octane number and the motor octane number and divide by two. This is explained by the American Society for Testing and Materials in ASTM D4814, Standard Specifications for Automotive Spark-Ignition Engine Fuel.
To determine automotive fuel ratings for alternative liquid automotive fuels, you must have a reasonable basis, consisting of competent and reliable evidence, for the percentage by volume of the component of the alternative liquid automotive fuel that you must disclose. You also must have a reasonable basis for the minimum percentages by volume of other components that you choose to disclose.
The FTC recognizes that consensus specifications that define alternative liquid automotive fuels, which include test methods to determine whether the fuels comply with the specifications, do not exist for many of the liquid alternative fuels. Therefore, the FTC is not requiring the use of specific test methods for determining their ratings. The FTC will review, on a case-by-case basis, any questions concerning what may constitute a reasonable basis for determining the automotive fuel ratings of alternative liquid automotive fuels.
In each transfer of automotive fuel you make to anyone other than a consumer, you must certify the automotive fuel rating of the fuel consistent with your determination. You may certify by including a delivery ticket with each transfer or with a letter of certification or another written statement. If you transfer automotive fuel to a common carrier, you must certify the automotive fuel rating to the common carrier on a delivery ticket, certification letter, or other paper.
A delivery ticket may be an invoice, bill of lading, bill of sale, terminal ticket, delivery ticket, or any other written proof of transfer. It must contain the following items:
- your name;
- the name of the person to whom the automotive fuel is transferred;
- the date of the transfer; and
- the automotive fuel rating.
A certification letter must include the following items:
- the date;
- your name;
- the other person’s name; and
- the automotive fuel rating of any automotive fuel you will transfer to that person from the date of the letter onward.
Generally, a letter of certification is good until you transfer automotive fuel with a lower automotive fuel rating. However, a letter certifying the fuel rating of biomass-based diesel, biodiesel, a biomass-based diesel blend, a biodiesel blend, or an ethanol flex fuel will be good only until you transfer those fuels with a different automotive fuel rating. When you need to certify a new automotive fuel rating, provide a new delivery ticket or certification letter.
You must keep records for one year on how you determined automotive fuel ratings. These records must be available for inspection by FTC staff or other authorized persons.
Distributors of Automotive Fuel
If you are a distributor of automotive fuel, you must certify the automotive fuel rating of the automotive fuel in each transfer you make to anyone other than a consumer.
You may certify either by including a delivery ticket with each transfer of automotive fuel or with a certification letter.
If you don’t blend gasoline with other gasoline, or if you don’t blend alternative liquid automotive fuels, you must certify with the automotive fuel rating certified to you when you received the fuel. If you blend, section 306.8 of the Rule explains how to determine the automotive fuel ratings that you certify for the blends. Even if you don’t blend, you may choose to certify the automotive fuel rating of the fuel consistent with your own determination of the rating according to the methods in section 306.5 of the Rule.
When you transfer automotive fuel to a common carrier, you must certify the automotive fuel rating of the fuel to the common carrier. When you receive automotive fuel from a common carrier, the common carrier must give you a certification of the automotive fuel rating.
For one year, you must keep any delivery tickets or letters of certification on which you based your automotive fuel rating certifications, and records of any automotive fuel rating determinations you made in accordance with section 306.5 of the Rule. These records must be available for inspection by FTC staff or other authorized persons.
Retailers of Automotive Fuel
If you are a retailer of automotive fuel, you must post the automotive fuel rating of all automotive fuel you sell to consumers.
You must post at least one label on the face of each dispenser through which you sell automotive fuel. If you sell two or more kinds of automotive fuel with different automotive fuel ratings from a single dispenser, you must put separate labels for each kind of fuel on each face of the dispenser. You do not need to post a label for ethanol flex fuels containing no more than 15% ethanol if you have labeled the dispenser in accordance with the EPA’s E15 labeling requirements at 40 CFR 80.1501.
The label must appear on the face of the dispenser as near as possible to the price per unit of the automotive fuel. The label must be in full view of consumers. You also must maintain and replace labels as needed to make sure that consumers can easily see and read them. If labels are defaced or are unusable, you may post a temporary label.
If you don’t blend gasoline with other gasoline, or if you do not blend alternative liquid automotive fuels, you must post the automotive fuel rating certified to you or determine the rating according to the methods in section 306.5 of the Rule. If you blend, section 306.10 of the Rule explains how to determine the automotive fuel ratings that you post for the blends.
When you receive automotive fuel from a common carrier, the common carrier must give you a certification of the automotive fuel rating.
For one year, you must keep any delivery tickets or letters of certification on which you based your posting of automotive fuel ratings, and records of any automotive fuel rating determinations you made in accordance with section 306.5 of the Rule. The records may be kept at the retail station or at reasonably-close location. These records must be available for inspection by FTC staff or other authorized persons.
The standard gasoline and alternative liquid automotive fuel labels are 3 inches wide by 2 1/2 inches long. The size, typestyle, and dimensions of the labels are specified in section 306.12 of the Rule. All labels must be able to withstand extreme weather conditions for at least one year. They must be resistant to automotive fuel, oil, grease, solvents, detergents, and water. Labels should look like these examples, except the black print should be on the appropriately colored background.
Gasoline labels must be printed in black on a yellow background, and disclose the minimum octane rating.
Ethanol Flex Fuels
Labels for ethanol flex fuel must be printed in black on an orange background. For ethanol flex fuels of 50% or less ethanol, the labels must disclose the exact percentage volume of ethanol, for example, “24% Ethanol,” or the percentage volume rounded to the nearest ten, for example, “30% Ethanol.” For ethanol flex fuels above 50%, but no more than 83% ethanol, the labels may contain the exact percentage volume, the percentage rounded to the nearest ten, or the text “51%-83% Ethanol.” Therefore, the Rule does not permit labeling a fuel as “E85.” In addition, all ethanol flex fuel labels must contain the text “Use Only in Flex-Fuel Vehicles/May Harm Other Engines.”
Biodiesel, Biomass-Based Diesel, and Their Blends
Labels for biodiesel and biomass-based diesel and their blends must be printed in black on a light blue background.
For biodiesel blends above 5%, but no more than 20%, the label must disclose the percentage volume of biodiesel followed by the term “Biodiesel Blend,” for example, “B-20 Biodiesel Blend,” or simply state “Biodiesel Blend.” Either way, the label also must state “contains biomass-based diesel or biodiesel in quantities between 5 and 20%.”
For biodiesel blends above 20%, the label must disclose the percentage volume of biodiesel followed by the term “Biodiesel Blend,” for example, “B-70 Biodiesel Blend.” The label also must state “contains more than 20% biomass-based diesel or biodiesel.”
For 100% Biodiesel, the label must state “B-100 Biodiesel” or “contains 100% biodiesel.”
For biomass-based diesel blends above 5% but no greater than 20%, the label must disclose the volume percentage of the biomass-based diesel followed by the term “Biomass-Based Diesel Blend,” for example, “20% Biomass-Based Diesel Blend,” or simply state “Biomass-Based Diesel Blend.” Either way, the label must also state “contains biomass-based diesel or biodiesel in quantities between 5 and 20%.”
For biomass-based diesel blends above 20%, the label must state the percentage volume of biomass-based diesel followed by the term “Biomass-Based Blend,” for example, “70% Biomass-Based Diesel Blend.” The label also must state “contains more than 20% biomass-based diesel or biodiesel.”
For 100% Biomass-Based Diesel Blends, the label must state “100% Biomass-Based Diesel” and “Contains 100% biomass-based diesel.”
Other Alternative Liquid Automotive Fuels
Other alternative liquid automotive fuel labels must be printed in black on an orange background. The labels must disclose the commonly-used name of the fuel and the minimum percentage volume of the principal component of the fuel.
If you are covered by the Fuel Rating Rule and want to change the dimensions of the label to accommodate a longer fuel descriptor or additional fuel components, you must file a petition with the FTC for an exemption from the Rule. You also must state the size and contents of the label you wish to use, and the reasons you want to use it.
Section 306.4 of the Rule contains the preemption language found in the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act (PMPA). This section preempts any provision of any local or state regulation that is not the same as an applicable provision of the Rule. However, states or their political subdivisions are authorized to use whatever investigative and enforcement action they deem necessary to enforce state laws that require the certification and posting of automotive fuel ratings.
Commonly Asked Questions
The following questions and answers may help you comply with the Fuel Rating Rule.
Q. According to the Rule, automotive fuel means a liquid fuel distributed for use in any motor vehicle. For purposes of the Rule, what is a "motor vehicle?"
A. As defined by the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act, "motor vehicle" means any self-propelled four-wheeled vehicle of less than 6,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, which is designed primarily for use on public streets, roads and highways.
Q. According to the Rule, the term "automotive fuel" includes liquefied natural gas. Is compressed natural gas (CNG) also covered by the Rule?
A. No. The Rule applies only to liquid automotive fuels and does not cover CNG. The term "automotive fuel" includes, but is not limited to, the liquid fuels listed in section 306.0(i) of the Rule.
Q. Some of the new alternative liquid automotive fuels covered by the Rule, like the liquefied petroleum gases propane and butane, often are not sold for automotive use. Are these sales covered by the Rule?
A. No. Only automotive fuels transferred for use as fuels in motor vehicles are covered by the Rule.
Q. Is the FTC requiring a minimum or a maximum automotive fuel rating level for automotive fuels?
A. No. The FTC’s Rule is designed to require that adequate disclosures are made to consumers to enable them to make the best fuel selections for their cars. Of course, you also are responsible for compliance with all other applicable laws and rules.
Q. Can automotive fuel rating certification be accomplished with documents that only identify fuels by code numbers or fuel names and do not include the fuel’s rating?
A. No. To comply with the Rule’s fuel rating certification requirement, delivery tickets or certification letters that accompany transfers of fuel must include, among other things, the fuel’s automotive fuel rating. Descriptive names, like regular or premium, or code numbers are not sufficient.
Q. If I sell fuel to customers who use it only for their own fleets, and not for resale to the general public, do I have to certify the fuel’s rating to those customers?
A. No. The Rule requires certification of the automotive fuel rating to anyone other than a consumer of the fuel. Customers who buy fuel for their own fleets are consumers of the fuel under the Rule’s definitions.
Q. Do common carriers have to comply with the Rule’s certification requirements?
A. No. Common carriers do not fall within the scope of the Rule. The Rule, however, requires covered industry members to give certification documents to, and receive certification documents from, common carriers in the chain of distribution. Accordingly, the FTC believes that common carriers will voluntarily pass on the certifications they receive as they play their part in the chain of automotive fuel distribution.
Q. How long do I have to keep automotive fuel rating certification records?
A. Refiners, producers, importers, distributors and retailers of automotive fuel must keep records of delivery tickets, certification letters, or tests upon which they based the automotive fuel rating that they certified or posted for one year, These records must be available for inspection by FTC staff or other authorized persons.
Q. Where can I report Rule violations or any allegedly fraudulent activity regarding the sale of automotive fuel?
A. If you suspect non-compliance, contact your state or local weights and measures office. In addition, please file a report online at ftc.gov/complaint. FTC attorneys and investigators – and hundreds of other law enforcement agencies – use complaints to bring cases against companies and people that violate the law. For more information, contact the FTC’s Division of Enforcement, Bureau of Consumer Protection at 202-326-2996.
Your Opportunity to Comment
The National Small Business Ombudsman and 10 Regional Fairness Boards collect comments from small businesses about federal compliance and enforcement activities. Each year, the Ombudsman evaluates the conduct of these activities and rates each agency’s responsiveness to small businesses. Small businesses can comment to the Ombudsman without fear of reprisal. To comment, call toll-free 1-888-REGFAIR (1-888-734-3247) or go to www.sba.gov/ombudsman.
[Note: Edited February 2023 to reflect Inflation-Adjusted Civil Penalty Maximums.]