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A Highlight Reel: FTC's Amendment to Fair Packaging and Labeling Act Rules

October 2015

Late last month, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced its amended regulations for consumer product labels under the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA). The amendments, which are available on the FTC’s website, revise the FPLA Regulations ("Rules"; 16 C.F.R. Part 500) in five ways:

(1) Modernize the place-of-business address requirement. The FPLA Rules require labels on consumer products to state the name and place of business of the manufacturer or distributor, including a complete street address. The previous version of the Rules stated that the full street address could only be omitted if the business was listed in a current city directory. As amended, a street address is not required if it is available in any readily accessible, well known, and publicly available resource (including a public website).

(2) Incorporate a more comprehensive metric conversion chart. Labels on consumer products must show the net quantity of contents in terms of weight, measure or numerical count, and some less common units of measurement were omitted from the conversion chart in the earlier Rules. The amended Rules incorporate a comprehensive metric conversion chart from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Handbook 133 at Appendix E.

(3) Clarify that companies may use exponents with customary inch/pound measurements as well as metric measurements. The previous version of the Rules only showed exponents being used in examples with metric units. The FTC amendments clarify that companies can also use exponents with non-metric units, such as "cubic inches." 

(4) Remove outdated prohibitions on retail price sales representations. The amendments eliminate restrictions on using "cents off," "introductory offer," or "economy size" on labels. These restrictions were designed to combat deceptive practices commonly used in the 1960s and 1970s that are no longer used in the modern marketplace, and "[s]hould they re-appear, the [FTC] has other tools at its disposal to ensure they are not used deceptively."

(5) Acknowledge the role of the weights-and-measures laws of individual states. Because some products fall outside the scope of the FPLA but are covered by the weights-and-measures laws of individual states, the amendment acknowledges the existence of state laws to "aid compliance efforts by alerting businesses that state laws may apply."

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