US Federal Trade Commission Proposes CFL Labels For Light Output, Color, Mercury, & More

lighting facts label ftc image

Example of lighting facts label requirement for CFLs. Image credit: proposed rule, Federal Trade Commission, US 16 CFR Part 305, [RIN 3084-AB03]

As the headline states, a recently published FTC proposal would mandate a uniform label format to inform US consumers on color temperature and bulb life, for example. From the Notice of Proposed Rule Making: "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."

If you are a US citizen, download the proposed Federal rule here (pdf file), read it, and then log in here to provide written comments electronically. Read on for my opinion on a rule option that would make this labeling requirement a means for reducing product packaging.The virtual label precedent.
I believe it is time to transition away from requiring label information to reside exclusively on physical labels. As a precedent-setting regulation, addition of a virtual label opt in could provide flexibility and cost savings for manufacturers, as well as help retailers avoid the big cardboard box or bubble pack. (Without a virtual label option, FTC would in effect be mandating increased material consumption and hence environmental impacts.)

Keep it simple and cheap.
You can't expect consumers to lug computers around while shopping; nor would it be appropriate to mandate point of purchase placards - just consumes more "stuff."

I realize that iPhone owners get all pumped about apps that let their phone camera scan a bar code and bring down product data. Unfortunately it's not an acceptable for those who can not afford the steep cost for web access on their phone.

On the other hand, access to cell phone texting services is almost universal, even on pay-ahead, no-contract phones. Let shoppers call or text a toll free number, pick a language, enter a product code, and get the data texted back in a few seconds. This would have the added advantage of allowing owners of a bulb found in a drawer or removed from a light fixture, years after the original purchase, to have access to the full range of information.