US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has proposed new regulations outlining procedures to block
at the border any household appliances or industrial equipment that
do not meet required energy conservation standards or labeling
requirements of the US Department of Energy (DOE) or the US Federal
Trade Commission (FTC). Non-complying import shipments may be
entirely denied entry or, in some cases, conditionally released
after payment of a bond and a promise by the importer to correct
the merchandise. CBP will accept comments on the proposed
rules until May 25, 2012.
The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) gives the
DOE and the FTC the authority to regulate most major household
appliances and industrial equipment. The EPCA and its
implementing regulations provide specific energy conservation and
labeling standards. Using the existing authority of the EPCA,
the proposed rule would allow CBP to take action against
non-complying imports when notified by the DOE or the FTC that the
goods do not meet:
energy conservation standards, or
If CBP receives such a notification, it may entirely refuse
import admission for the goods. Or, if recommended by the DOE
or FTC, CBP may allow conditional release of the imports (under a
bond posted by the importer), so that the goods may be
reconditioned, re-labeled, or otherwise made compliant. CBP
would retain the right to demand redelivery to CBP's custody if
the imports' defects are not timely
CBP's notice states that although the proposed rule
qualifies as a significant regulatory action, the CBP does not
anticipate that it will be economically significant. Indeed,
CBP reports that DOE has identified only a small number of
businesses importing noncompliant articles. However, a review
of the DOE website shows that the DOE states that this rule is the
result of "extensive collaboration" with CBP.
The DOE says that this rule is part of the DOE's of "stepped up enforcement" in this
area. These statements are consistent with the DOE's
prior promises of "tougher enforcement efforts under the new
Administration", announced in 2009. In keeping with
this commitment, the DOE filed almost 50 enforcement cases between
the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2011 against companies that the
agency believed to be selling products without the appropriate
conservation compliance certifications.
Similarly, recent action by the FTC has shown that agency's
interest in enforcement of energy conservation labeling
standards. Under the current iteration of the labeling
guidelines, online retailers were fined $400,000 for failing to post Energy Guide
information for appliances on their sites. Additionally, the
FTC recently announced a proposed rule of its own, updating and revising
the labeling requirements that businesses must adhere to in order
for appliances to be deemed EPCA compliant.
Regardless of whether the proposed rule is adopted, a business
importing household appliances and goods into the United States
should be aware of the increased enforcement of the energy
standards and labeling requirements under the EPCA. If the
proposed rule goes into effect, it seems likely that CBP also can
be expected to look for opportunities to use the new
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