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In a notice published in the Federal Register today, the Federal Trade Commission proposes to amend its Appliance Labeling Rule to eliminate the "Front-Loading" and "Top- Loading" sub-categories from the EnergyGuide label for clothes washers. The Commission’s proposal to delete the sub-categories is in response to a petition from the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, Inc., which has stated that it believes the sub-categories "confuse consumers and undermine CEE’s and its members’ efforts to promote high-efficiency clothes washers."

The Appliance Labeling Rule, which was adopted in November 1979, requires manufacturers to disclose energy information about major household appliances to enable consumers to compare the energy use or efficiency of competing models. In addition to clothes washers, the rule applies to refrigerators, freezers, water heaters, dishwashers, window air conditioners, furnaces, central air conditioners, and heat pumps.

The Rule requires manufacturers to disclose on the EnergyGuide the energy consumption or efficiency of the labeled appliance. The EnergyGuide also must contain a bar showing the highest and lowest energy consumption or efficiencies for all similar appliance models so consumers can compare the energy use of the labeled model to other models they may be considering. To help make the comparisons more meaningful, each category of appliance covered by the Rule is divided to some extent into sub-categories based on fuel type, size, and/or functional features. Labels for clothes washers and some other appliance products also must disclose estimated annual operating cost based on a specified national average cost for the fuel the appliances use.

In addition to outlining the history of the Appliance Labeling Rule and its requirements for clothes washers and discussing the merits of CEE’s request, the Federal Register notice seeks comment on several questions, including:

  1. What is the effect of the current "Top-Loading" and "Front-Loading" subdivisions of the "Standard" and "Compact" subcategories for clothes washers on consumers’ ability to choose the most energy efficient model that will fill their clothes washing needs?
  2. What would be the economic impact on manufacturers of the proposed amendment?

The Commission vote to publish the proposal in the Federal Register was 4-0.

The proposal will be subject to public comment until December 17, 1998, after which the Commission will decide whether to make it final. Comments should be addressed to the FTC, Office of the Secretary, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580. Comments should be identified as "Appliance Labeling Rule Clothes Washer Categories, 16 CFR Part 305 -- Comment."

Copies of the full text of the Federal Register notice are available from the FTC’s web site at and also from the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, Room 130, 6th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20580; 202-FTC-HELP (202-382-4357); 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.

(FTC File No. R611004)

Contact Information

Media Contact:
Michelle Muth,
Office of Public Affairs
Staff Contact:
James Mills,
Bureau of Consumer Protection