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FCC Loosens Device Labeling Restrictions

Not even a day after a bill was introduced to give consumer electronics manufacturers more flexibility in digitally labeling their products per FCC rules, the FCC released new guidance on giving manufacturers more flexibility in digitally labeling their products.

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, according to the FCC, it wants to update the requirement for the digital age.

On Friday, the FCC's Office of Engineering & Technology issued new labeling guidance making that point and saying it was authorized to approve alternative means.

It has now done so, advising that all devices with an integral screen can now display that label digitally on that screen, and up to three steps deep into the device menu. The user manual must include information on accessing that FCC info, or it can be on the equipment's website.

Removable labels with the FCC info must still be on the products or their packaging when they are shipped and sold.

FCC Commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Jessica Rosenworcel, in response to the bill's announcement, had already signaled OET was in the process of updating the requirement for the digital age.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) who along with Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D- W. Va.) introduced the E-Label Act Thursday applauded the FCC's new guidelines but suggested a bill was still needed. “As the sponsor of the bipartisan E-LABEL Act with Chairman Rockefeller, I welcome the FCC's timely guidance on this issue," she said in a statement. "The Commission's willingness to engage and help promote certainty regarding e-labeling deserves to be commended. This is a good first step toward the implementation of new rules promoted by the E-LABEL Act that would modernize our labeling requirements to the benefit of manufacturers and consumers."

It was not clear just what more steps the bill would take, since it appeared to be legislating what the FCC was already doing under its own dime.

"Passage of the E-LABEL Act would ensure new labeling rules are adopted and FCC requirements for these electronic devices are updated," said a spokesperson for the senator. "While the FCC’s e-labeling guidance signals good progress towards modernizing these regulations as Senator Fischer noted, current FCC labeling requirements have not yet been changed."