FTC Seeks Input on 'Picture Tube Rule'

Agency exploring whether TV screen reg still necessary, possible modifications

The Federal Trade Commission is reconsidering how advertisers are required to market screen sizes on TVs and how technology changes may need to prompt changes in the rule.

As part of new FTC acting chair Maureen Ohlhausen's regulatory reform measures, the FTC is seeking comment on whether it needs to keep the "Picture Tube Rule" on the books.

Formally known as "Deceptive Advertising as to Sizes of Viewable Pictures Shown by Television Receiving Sets Rule," the rule requires advertisers to base any representation of screen size on the horizontal dimension of the actual, viewable area, unless they disclose the alternative measurement method clearly and conspicuously in close proximity to the size designation" or such advertisements are considered unfair and deceptive.

The FTC points out that the rule dates from 1966 and was last updated in 1994. It last reviewed the rule in 2006, but decided not to make any changes.

The agency wants to know if the rule is still needed to help consumers compare products, which was its intent, and to analyze the "efficiency, costs, benefits and impact of the rule."

It will also take into account changes in television screen technology, including plasma, LED, OLED and other flat screen display materials, and whether curved screens or different aspect ratios require changes to the rule.

Comments are due Aug. 31.

“Regulations can be important tools in protecting consumers, but when they are outdated, excessive, or unnecessary, they can create significant burdens on the U.S. economy, with little benefit,” said Ohlhausen of the general regulatory review, which includes energy labeling on some products, unwanted e-mails (CAN-SPAM Rule) and a textile-related rule. “Private firms face constant market pressure to innovate and improve, and I see no reason why government should operate any differently. American taxpayers should expect nothing less from us."