Hill Puts Exclamation Point on FCC E-Labeling

The Senate this week passed the E-Lable Act, which passed in the House in September and now heads to the President's desk.

The bill applies to devices with integrated displays — smart phones, tablets, TVs — and directs the FCC to allow electronics manufacturers to display FCC-required information on those screens instead of having to be etched in or affixed onto increasingly small physical real estate.

The bill essentially makes law what the FCC already made policy earlier in the year, and in that sense is somewhat of a lily-guild, though it does make the FCC policy, which could be changed at the FCC's discretion, into law.

The FCC requires any equipment that needs FCC certification or testing to sport a nameplate or etched label (check out that iPhone hieroglyph) listing its FCC ID and any other requirements of operation. The label has to be permanently affixed. But given that consumer devices like phones and computers are getting smaller by the day, and etching and labeling could cause damage or be very expensive, the FCC decided to update the requirement for screen devices in the digital age, which the FCC's Office of Engineering & Technology did, issuing new labeling guidance back in July.

The bill makes it a law, not just an FCC policy.

“I’m pleased that both the Senate and the House has passed this commonsense legislation to provide relief for job creators, increase options for consumers and bring outdated regulations into the 21st century,” said Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), who proposed the Senate version. “This bill increases options and lowers costs for manufacturers while also making required regulatory information more easily accessible to consumers."

The Telecommunications Industry Association (ITA) echoed Fischer's praise for the legislative exclamation mark.

“We applaud members of Congress for passing the E-LABEL Act and paving the way for a new level of innovation in the ICT industry,” said TIA CEO Scott Belcher. “The current FCC requirement for manufacturers to either etch or print mandatory regulatory markings on the exterior of devices unnecessarily increases costs, limits design options and ineffectively conveys important information to consumers, especially as many devices become smaller. By updating device labeling requirements, the E-LABEL Act will enhance the ability of our manufacturers to compete while also increasing access to consumer information.”

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.