Federal Trade Commission Approves New Regulations for Labels on Light Bulb Packaging

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On Monday, July 19, 2010, the Federal Trade Commission published in the Federal Register final amendments to its Appliance Labeling Rule (codified at 16 C.F.R. Part 305) pursuant to Section 321 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 6294).  Under EISA, the FTC is required to consider the effectiveness of current labeling requirements for lamps and to evaluate alternative approaches.  The purpose of the FTC’s update was to assist consumers in choosing between three types of common household light bulbs on the market, including general service incandescent light bulbs, compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs and general service light-emitting diode (LED) light bulbs.

 

According to the FTC’s press release on the matter, the new Appliance Labeling Rule, for the first time, will require the label on the front of a light bulb package to “emphasize the bulbs’ brightness as measured in lumens,” rather than watts.  Watts measure energy use, not brightness, and without information on brightness the task of comparing light bulbs can be more difficult.  The example used by the FTC in its press release in stressing this point is instructive; that is “A compact fluorescent bulb may be able to produce the same amount of brightness as a traditional incandescent bulb, while using significantly less energy, or watts.”     As such, this change is meaningful and should improve a consumer’s ability to compare light bulbs.  The label on the front of a light bulb package must also contain the light bulb’s estimated annual energy cost, “expressed as ‘Estimated Energy Cost’ in dollars and based on usage of 3 hours per day and 11 cents ($0.11) per kWh.” 16 C.F.R. § 305.15(b)(1)(ii).

 

In addition to the regulatory changes for the front label on light bulb packages, the FTC’s new Appliance Labeling Rule, among other things, mandates the placement of a new “Lighting Facts” label either on the “side or rear display panel of the product package” that includes information about a light bulb’s output, estimated annual energy cost, life expectancy, correlated color temperature (i.e. whether the bulb produces warm or cool light), wattage, design voltage if other than 120 volts and a notice regarding mercury if the bulb contains mercury. 16 C.F.R. § 305.15(b)(3).  The Lighting Facts label may also contain an Energy Star logo for qualified products provided that the manufacturer shall have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the U.S. Department of Energy or the Environmental Protection Agency that covers such products.  According to the FTC, this new Lighting Facts label was modeled after the “Nutrition Facts” label used on food packages.

 

The provisions of the new Appliance Labeling Rule discussed above shall become effective on July 19, 2011.

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