The Federal Trade Commission is seeking public comments on whether it should propose updates to its Energy Labeling Rule to modernize and expand the Rule’s coverage to reduce energy costs for consumers and require manufacturers to provide consumers with repair instructions.
“We look forward to hearing from the public on our initiative to reduce energy costs, promote competition, and strengthen repairability,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “As prices rise, the Commission will continue to take aggressive action to protect consumers’ pocketbooks and strengthen their right to repair their own products.”
The FTC’s Energy Labeling Rule requires manufacturers to attach labels to major home appliances and other consumer products to help consumers compare the energy usage and costs of competing models. The Rule prohibits retailers from removing or altering these labels, which help consumers anticipate their energy usage and avoid costly surprises after they have bought a product. The FTC also has authority to require manufacturers to provide consumers with instructions for the maintenance, use, or repair of covered products.
In an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking announced today, the FTC is seeking public comment on whether it should propose amendments to the Rule, specifically addressing;
- Requiring Repair Instructions. In its May 2021 “Nixing the Fix Report” to Congress, the Commission found “scant evidence to support manufacturers’ justification for repair restrictions,” which result in limited access to repair information, consumer reliance on manufacturers’ repair networks, or consumer replacement of products before the end of their useful lives. Accordingly, the FTC is seeking comment on whether the Commission should require manufacturers to include information on how consumers can repair their products. Access to this information will strengthen consumers’ right to repair damaged products, without the need to go back to the manufacturer, providing them with potentially lower-cost repair options. It could also help ensure that independent repairers have a chance to compete with manufacturers and licensed dealers. Finally, it could help protect our environment by allowing consumers to repair rather than replace damaged appliances.
- Developing EnergyGuide Labels for Several New Product Categories. The FTC requires energy labels on products to assist consumers in making purchasing decisions. As detailed in the Federal Register notice to be published shortly, the Commission seeks comment on potential new labels for: 1) clothes dryers, 2) air cleaners (also known as air purifiers), 3) miscellaneous refrigerator products including coolers (wine chillers) and combination cooler products, 4) additional light bulbs including low-brightness bulbs, 5) residential ice makers, 6) humidifiers, 7) miscellaneous gas products (also known as hearth products), 8) cooking tops, and 9) electric spas.
- Matching Label Format and Location to Consumer Shopping Patterns. The FTC is seeking comment on whether any rule changes are necessary to ensure labeling requirements are consistent with current shopping behavior. While the Rule currently requires that manufacturers affix labels on the units themselves, fewer products appear on display in stores as more and more consumers are shopping online. The Commission is seeking information on new ways label information can be provided to reduce the burden on manufacturers, while still ensuring it is readily available to consumers.
The FTC also seeks comment on whether it should consider changes to the content on, and format of, EnergyGuide labels currently in use.
The Commission vote approving publication of the notice in the Federal Register was 5-0, with Chair Lina M. Khan issuing a separate statement and Commissioner Christine S. Wilson issuing a separate concurring statement. Then-Commissioner Noah Phillips registered a vote in the affirmative to approve publication in the Federal Register before he left the Commission. Once it has been published in the Federal Register, consumers can submit comments electronically. Consumers also may submit comments in writing by following the instructions in the “Supplementary Information” section of the Federal Register notice.