Jim Brodrick on New FTC Consumer Lamp Labeling Requirements

Guest Post by Jim Brodrick, Department of Energy

[Recently], the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its new consumer labeling requirements for medium screw-based light bulbs. The bottom line is that manufacturers of incandescent, compact fluorescent, and LED light bulbs will have to begin employing a new “Lighting Facts” label that’s similar to DOE’s Lighting FactsCM label on consumer packaging by mid-2011. While the Congress did not directly specify LED lighting in its requirements for a new label, the significant advancements in SSL technology as well as its market availability, along with the success of DOE’s Lighting Facts label as a “buyer’s tool,” convinced the FTC that the inclusion of a similar label would be appropriate. More about the DOE-FTC working relationship below.

Of particular significance for SSL is that for the first time, the package labeling will emphasize the bulbs’ brightness as measured in lumens, rather than emphasizing watts. This change is especially important, because the phase-out of lower-efficiency bulbs, mandated by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, begins in 2012. As a nation, we must begin to educate consumers on the difference between “lumens” and “watts,” and to change their focus when selecting bulbs to the amount of light needed for a particular task (lumens), not the amount of power consumed (watts).

In its press release, the FTC states that: “While watt measurements are familiar to consumers and have been featured on the front of light bulb packages for decades, watts are a measurement of energy use, not brightness. As a result, reliance on watt measurements alone makes it difficult for consumers to compare traditional incandescent bulbs to more efficient bulbs …..”

The adoption of a new FTC consumer light bulb labeling system that’s better suited for SSL is an important step forward, despite what might at first seem to be a conflict with the already established DOE Lighting Facts label. It’s not a coincidence that the two labels are both called “Lighting Facts.” DOE and the FTC have been working closely together on this matter and will continue to strive for assurances that LED products perform as advertised. While the DOE Lighting Facts Program covers all LED products designed for white light, general illumination applications, it is primarily intended, at present, to assist buyers – such as retailers, wholesalers, lighting designers, and energy efficiency programs – in evaluating products and identifying the best options. The FTC label is primarily a consumer label, and in that respect does not conflict with the DOE label.

In a footnote on Page 12 of the Federal Register notice, the FTC states that “‘Lighting Facts’ is a trademark held by the U.S. Government through the DOE solid-state lighting program. The FTC and DOE will work together to coordinate DOE’s voluntary Lighting Facts program for LED products with the FTC’s mandatory labeling for general service lamps.” DOE explained in its comments to the FTC that, to ensure a clear separation between the two agencies’ activities, DOE’s consumer-packaging efforts would address pin-based LED replacement lamps and LED luminaires, and not the medium screw-base LED bulbs covered by the FTC Rule. What this means is that manufacturers can still employ the DOE label as a buyer educational tool in “cut sheets,” in internal packaging material, and on web sites, just not on the outside of the packaging itself.

It should be noted that the FTC does not specifically require test procedures for LED lamps in either of two key areas: lamp efficacy or lifetime. The reason for this is that the FTC is required by law to only specify test procedures adopted by the DOE as part of national lighting standards. Since neither LM-79 nor LM-80 has yet been adopted by DOE as a standard (and LM-80 alone is not enough to describe the lifetime of an LED lamp), the FTC cannot stipulate them as testing procedures. However, with regard to product lifetime, the FTC “strongly recommends that manufacturers use DOE (SSL Program) guidance as it becomes available to substantiate life claims for LEDs.”

DOE also urged the FTC to stipulate LM-79 “for measuring the light output, efficacy (lumens per watt), and color characteristics of LED bulbs.” DOE requires this test as a condition of participation in its voluntary “Lighting Facts” program for LED lamps. The final FTC rulemaking does not impose LM-79 as a testing requirement for the reason stated above, but “In light of DOE’s substantial expertise in this area, … the final amendments include LM-79 as a non-required testing procedure that the Commission deems acceptable to substantiate light output and color temperature disclosures for LEDs.”

Copies of the FTC Lighting Facts label and its new rule may be found at http://www.ftc.gov/opa/2010/06/lightbulbs.shtm. I would urge all interested parties to read and digest the new labeling requirements, and if you have any questions regarding the existence of the two Lighting Facts labels, please send them on to me at postings at lightingfacts dot com.

One Comment

  1. sslPro says:

    I concur , its great to get this kind of objective analysis out
    there. Mr B’s rationale and integrity on this caution about the
    not ready for prime time lamps is great.It goes beyond simple lumen
    output yields, there are legitimate concerns about stated claims of
    performance.Has anyone produce an addressable version or CCT variable
    4 foot lamp . The answer is NOT YET -SSLPro

Leave a Reply