FTC Proposes New Output-Based Labels for Light Bulbs

FTC Proposes New Output-Based Labels for Light Bulbs

The days of referring to a compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) as being “equivalent to a 60-watt light bulb” may soon be over, as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has proposed new labels for light bulbs that are based on light output rather than energy consumption. The marketplace has been changing quickly with the emergence of newer, more energy-efficient technologies—such as CFLs and light-emitting diode (LED) products—as traditional incandescent bulbs are phased out. The proposed labels provide consumers with information to help them choose among different bulb types.

The Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) seeks public comments on new labels that emphasize lumens, not watts, as the measure of bulb brightness. This information, along with estimated energy cost information, would appear on the front of the light bulb package. The back of the package would display a “Lighting Facts” label modeled after the “Nutrition Facts” label for food packages. The Lighting Facts label would provide information about brightness, energy cost, the bulb’s expected life, color temperature (for example, whether the bulb provides “warm” or “cool” light), as well as wattage. The label also would require disclosures for bulbs containing mercury. The bulb’s output in lumens—and a mercury disclosure for bulbs that contain mercury—would also have to be placed on the bulb itself. The NOPR was published in the Federal Register on November 10, and comments are due by December 28.

The Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 requires the FTC to consider the effectiveness of current bulb labeling requirements and explore alternative labeling approaches. As the first step, the FTC issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking last year, seeking comments on existing labeling requirements and possible labeling alternatives, and then held a public roundtable to gather more information. See the FTC press release, and the Federal Register Notice (PDF 663 KB), which includes samples of the proposed labels

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