One less symbol on your smartphone? Congress considers relaxing FCC labeling requirements

by tech on July 11, 2014

Most smartphones and tablets sold in the United States have one thing in common: a tiny etched FCC logo somewhere on the case, as well as other technical labels, indicating the device has been approved by the FCC. Devices with wireless connectivity will still require FCC approval, but if the E-Label Act, which was introduced in the Senate on Thursday, is passed, that symbol will no longer need to be etched onto every single gadget.

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As reported in The Hill, Senators Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) and Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) introduced the bill, which would allow companies to skip etching the FCC logo onto smartphones, tablets, and laptops, and instead present the certification as a “digital stamp.” A digital stamp could take the form of a splash screen when the device boots up, or as a menu item alongside other device information.

This could be a boon for companies figuring out how to include legally required regulatory information on devices and device categories that continue to shrink, like smartwatches. But while it could save money on etching costs, it also presents problems for devices without screens. Lots of internet of things products require FCC approval and labeling, but might not offer a logical way to display a “digital stamp.”

Also note that the FCC certification isn’t the only indecipherable symbol on the back of gadgets; the European Union uses a CE logo, China has its own certification stamp and there are also often symbols from nonprofits like the Underwriters Laboratory to certify that the product is reliable. Even if this bill passes and eventually becomes law — and it’s still in its early stages — gadget makers would still have to meet international labeling requirements, so you’ll still be buying phones with inscrutable symbols on the back.

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