It was a new era for shoppers in the 1960s. Suburbs, malls and grocery stores boomed. Esso “put a tiger in your tank.” And unscrupulous marketers came up with some new tricks. It turns out that a “jumbo pound” weighed, you guessed it – one pound. Into the fray entered the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA), signed into law in 1966.
At Congress’ request, the FTC studied the packaging and labeling problems that consumers faced as they tried to smartly shop for “consumer commodities,” which the law defined as those things fully used up in the shopper’s home (other than things that other government folk regulate, like food and alcohol).
The FTC ultimately issued regulations on how companies had to package and label their products to benefit consumers, without undue burden on business. No longer would shoppers need to wear Mr. Magoo’s glasses in store aisles – the regulations told companies they had to identify the product, its quantity, and its source, in a specific way and at a particular place on the package.
But the FTC knows the marketplace doesn’t stay frozen in time. So last year the Commission reviewed its FPLA regulations to see if they needed to be overhauled. After conducting a systematic review, the Commission decided the FPLA regulations still benefit shoppers and sellers. The Commission proposes two newsworthy changes.
First, the Commission plans to update the FPLA rules for the internet era. Right now, a business has to list its full address on the label – but the company can drop the street address if it’s in a telephone directory. The Commission’s proposed changes say it’s OK for a business to drop the street address if it’s listed in any readily accessible, well-known, widely published, and publicly available resource, like the company’s website.
Second, the Commission proposes to delete regulations that refer to outdated advertising phrases. In the 1960s, “cents off,” “introductory offer,” and “economy-size” were popular enticements to shoppers. But now those terms are as rare as rabbit ears on a TV, so the Commission plans to delete regulations on when and how a company uses those phrases on packages and labels.
The Commission is seeking comment on its proposed changes to the FPLA regulations. You can comment until March 30, 2015.