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House Passes E-LABEL Act

The House Thursday passed the E-LABEL Act. 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 on a label or etched into the device.

The bill recognizes that as devices get smaller, putting the information on the physical product becomes increasingly difficult. It also saves money to do it electronically.

The bill has bipartisan support and a companion bill that has been introduced in the Senate, but it is arguably somewhat of a lily-gild.

Essentially, the Enhance Labeling, Accessing, and Branding of Electronic Licenses Act of 2014 gives the FCC nine months to do what it has already done, which is to allow the manufacturers of electronic devices with integrated screens to opt for on-screen and online labels to provide FCC-required information—like certification and testing—rather than having to affix or etch a physical label.

Not a day after the bill was introduced in July, the FCC's Office of Engineering & Technology issued new labeling guidance and said it was authorized to approve those alternative, on-screen means.

"Passage of the E-LABEL Act would ensure new labeling rules are adopted and FCC requirements for these electronic devices are updated," a spokesperson for one of the bill's sponsors explained when the bill was introduced almost in tandem with the FCC guidance. "While the FCC’s e-labeling guidance signals good progress towards modernizing these regulations...the current FCC labeling requirements have not yet been changed."