FTC Seeks Public Comment on Amplifier Rule Amendments to Make Testing Methods More Useful to Consumers

The Federal Trade Commission seeks public comment on its Amplifier Rule (formally known as the Rule Relating to Power Output Claims for Amplifiers Utilized in Home Entertainment Products). First, to help consumers make apples to apples comparisons about sound quality, the Commission proposes requiring that sellers use uniform testing methods before they advertise power output levels. Second, for multichannel home theater amplifiers, the Commission seeks comment about how to set test conditions to reflect typical consumer use.

“Clear choices for consumers and a level playing field for manufacturers are critical in today’s marketplace,” said Samuel Levine, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “This request for comment on amendments to the Amplifier Rule will help the FTC foster those safeguards in the audio industry.” 

The Amplifier Rule requires uniform measurements and disclosures for home entertainment amplifiers so consumers can easily compare amplifier characteristics. It was enacted by the FTC in 1974 in response to amplifier advertisements that relied on widely disparate and, at times, deceptive testing methods, leaving consumers without a way to reliably shop for amplifiers. The Rule was last reviewed and revised in 2008.

As detailed in a notice of proposed rulemaking that will be published shortly, the FTC is currently in the process of reviewing the Rule, and has issued a Federal Register notice seeking comments regarding public support for the rule and proposed changes or modifications the FTC should consider. Commenters overwhelmingly support the rule, but some have recommended amendments. After evaluating the comments received, the FTC is now seeking additional comments on:

  • whether the Commission should amend the Rule to simplify power output measures by standardizing the test parameters used by amplifier sellers as follows: a load impedance of 8 ohms, a power band of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, and a THD limit of less than 0.1%; and
  • the parameters of consumers’ normal use of multichannel home theater amplifiers.

The Commission vote approving publication of the notice of proposed rulemaking was 5-0. It will be published in the Federal Register shortly. Written comments must be received within 60 days of the date the notice is published. Comments can be filed electronically at https://www.regulations.gov.

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