FTC Announces Regulatory Reform Measures Ranging from TVs and Textiles to Energy Labels and Email

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As part of Federal Trade Commission Acting Chairman Maureen K. Ohlhausen’s regulatory reform initiative, the FTC is taking steps to ensure that its rules and guides keep pace with technological advances in the marketplace while continuing the agency’s mission to protect consumers and promote competition without unduly burdening legitimate business.

“Regulations can be important tools in protecting consumers, but when they are outdated, excessive, or unnecessary, they can create significant burdens on the U.S. economy, with little benefit,” said Acting Chairman Ohlhausen. “Private firms face constant market pressure to innovate and improve, and I see no reason why government should operate any differently. American taxpayers should expect nothing less from us,” Ohlhausen further stated.

Today’s announcement addresses the FTC’s Picture Tube Rule, Textile Rules, Energy Labeling Rule, and the CAN-SPAM Rule. Further streamlining may be in store as the FTC continues to conduct its regular, systematic reviews of all of its rules and guides, assessing the continuing need for them, as well as their costs and benefits, both to consumers and businesses.

Picture Tube Rule. The FTC is seeking public comment on the Picture Tube Rule, which requires manufacturers to adopt uniform measurement of television screen sizes to help consumers compare products. Specifically, the agency will be reviewing whether the rule is still needed, as well as the efficiency, costs, benefits and impact of the rule.

Initiated in 1966 and last amended in 1994, the Picture Tube Rule requires advertisers to base any representation of the screen size on the horizontal dimension of the actual, viewable area, unless they disclose the alternative method of measurement clearly and conspicuously.

Among the issues the FTC will consider are changes in television technology including, the incorporation of plasma, LED, OLED, and other similar materials in flat display screens.

The Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Picture Tube Rule is available on the FTC's website and as a link to this press release and will be published in the Federal Register soon. Instructions for filing comments appear in the Federal Register Notice. Comments must be received by August 31, 2017; they will be posted at www.ftc.gov/policy/public-comments. (FTC File No. P174200; the staff contact is John Andrew Singer, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-3234)

Textile Rules. The FTC also is seeking public comment on a proposal to eliminate obsolete provisions of its Textile Labeling Rules, which require marketers to attach a label to a textile product disclosing the manufacturer or marketer name, the country where the product was processed or manufactured, and the generic names and percentages by weight of the fibers in the product.

The Textile Rule allows marketers to disclose a trademark used as a “housemark” (a distinctive mark used to identify all a firm’s products) on the tag in lieu of their business name, but only if they first register their housemark with the Commission. That provision, imposed in 1959, is no longer necessary because trademark owners can easily be identified by searching online or via the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on the Textile Rules is available on the FTC's website and as a link to this press release and will be published in the Federal Register soon. Instructions for filing comments appear in the Federal Register Notice. Comments must be received by July 31, 2017; they will be posted at www.ftc.gov/policy/public-comments. (FTC File No. P948404; the staff contact is Laura Koss, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2890)

Energy Labeling Rule. In addition, the FTC is updating its Energy Labeling Rule to eliminate provisions that are obsolete and unnecessarily burdensome and to account for new products in the marketplace.

The Energy Labeling Rule helps consumers consider the energy cost of consumer products by requiring yellow EnergyGuide labels on certain appliances to help consumers compare similar models. Among other things, the labels provide consumers with an estimated annual operating cost and an energy consumption rating.

In September 2016, the FTC sought public comment on proposed changes to the Rule. The changes eliminate obsolete marking requirements for plumbing products, exempt certain ceiling fans from labeling requirements, and update the labels to cover electric instantaneous water heaters. (FTC File No. R611004; the staff contact for final amendments to the Energy Labeling Rule is Hampton Newsome, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2889.)

CAN-SPAM Rule. As part of its systematic review of its rules, the FTC also is seeking public comment on its rule implementing the CAN-SPAM Act, a 2003 law that sets requirements for commercial email and gives recipients the right to stop unwanted email. 

The CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act) Rule requires that a commercial e-mail contain accurate header and subject lines, identify itself as an ad, include a valid physical address, and offer recipients a way to opt out of future messages.

The FTC is seeking comment on whether consumers have benefitted from the Rule, whether it should be modified, the costs of compliance, whether it should be amended to account for technological or economic changes, among other things.

The Federal Register notice regarding the CAN-SPAM Rule is available on the FTC's website and as a link to this press release and will be published in the Federal Register soon. Instructions for filing comments appear in the Federal Register Notice. Comments must be received by August 31, 2017; they will be posted at www.ftc.gov/policy/public-comments. (FTC File No. R711010; the staff contact is Christopher E. Brown, Bureau of Consumer Protection, 202-326-2825)

The Commission vote approving each of these actions was 2-0.

The Federal Trade Commission works to promote competition, and protect and educate consumers. You can learn more about consumer topics and file a consumer complaint online or by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357). Like the FTC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, read our blogs and subscribe to press releases for the latest FTC news and resources.

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