8 June 2012
FTC Seeks Public Input on Used Auto Parts Guides, Changes to Energy Guide Labels for Certain Heating and Cooling Products
The Federal Trade Commission has taken two actions of potential interest to Hong Kong and mainland Chinese exporters. On the one hand, the agency is proposing to amend the Energy Guide labels that are required for residential furnaces, central air conditioners and heat pumps to help consumers and businesses install equipment appropriate for their location under the new regional efficiency standards that were announced by the Department of Energy on 25 October 2011. Specifically, the new labels would have to include a U.S. map showing where the product can be installed legally, a simple format for efficiency ratings, and a link to an on-line energy cost calculator. The proposal would also require the label to be on manufacturers' Web sites, product packaging and, as currently required, on the products themselves.
The FTC indicates that the proposed label contains two parts: a revised upper portion designed primarily for consumers and a lower portion to help installers comply with the regional standards. The upper portion, which resembles the current Energy Guide, would appear on labels for all heating and cooling products whether or not they are subject to different regional standards. It would disclose the product's efficiency rating, a range of efficiency ratings for similar products, and a link to an on-line energy cost calculator. The FTC would require new comparability ranges beginning 1 May 2013 to coincide with the new efficiency standards applicable to most products, although for products subject to standards effective 1 January 2015 (i.e., central air conditioners, heat pumps and weatherised furnaces) the new ranges would not apply until that date. The lower portion of the proposed label would contain maps, tables and other information designed to help installers comply with the regional standards and would appear only on products subject to those standards (i.e., split-system air conditioner, single-package air conditioners, and non-weatherised and mobile home gas furnaces).
Interested parties will be able to submit input to the FTC on this proposal by 6 August.
The FTC is also seeking comments by 3 August on the costs, benefits, necessity for, and regulatory and economic impact of its "Guides for the Rebuilt, Reconditioned and Other Used Automobile Parts Industry." The Used Auto Parts Guides seek to prevent unfair or deceptive acts or practices in the advertisement and sale (including installation) of previously used motor vehicle parts and assemblies of parts containing previously used parts (e.g., engines and transmissions). The Guides have been in place since 1979 but were revised in 2002 to make minor language changes and update the list of commonly rebuilt or reused parts and assemblies. In their current form, the Guides apply to "used parts and assemblies containing used parts designed for use in automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, tractors, or similar self-propelled vehicles whether or not such parts or assemblies have been reconstructed in any way."
Among other things, the Guides prohibit both misrepresentations that an industry product is new and misrepresentations of "the current condition, or extent of previous use, reconstruction, or repair of" an industry product. Industry products must be clearly and conspicuously identified as such in advertisements, on packaging, and, if the product appears new, on the product itself. Further, the Guides describe the treatment an industry product must receive before it can be described as "rebuilt" or "remanufactured" and limit use of the term "factory rebuilt" to industry products rebuilt "at a factory generally engaged in the rebuilding of such products."