The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is being urged to take steps to update apparel and footwear labelling requirements so that new technologies such as digital labels could deliver product information to consumers.
Such a move would eliminate uncomfortable tags, improve accessibility of information, and shrink the environmental impact of physical labels, according to the American Apparel & Footwear Association (AAFA).
“We believe it is now time to update the regulatory and legislative framework to allow and authorise this same information to be provided on a digital platform, accessible through smaller labels on products and packaging, as a replacement of the current system,” AAFA president and CEO Steve Lamar says in a letter to the agency.
The group, which represents US retailers, brands and importers, explains that existing legislative and regulatory rules require information – such as care, content, identification, and origin – to be physically attached to the product or packaging.
“The benefits of technologies that allow the migration of information to a digital platform are greatly eliminated because this information is also required to be physically present,” the letter explains.
Enabling the use of new technology to deliver labelling information would benefit consumers by ensuring that critical care, fibre, and other key information is always available and up-to-date; it would reduce irritation caused by physical labels; and cut the environmental impact of physical labels.
Other potential advantages include simplifying diverse international requirements including language requirements, easing the update of information on a label if something is found to be incorrect or regulations change, and expanding the amount of information that could be conveyed with a label such as product certifications and origination information.
AAFA also suggests that new technologies are even more imperative as the fashion and footwear industries emerge from the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“US consumers have been increasingly relying on e-commerce to learn about and order products, and this trend has increased markedly over the past several months. Greater reliance on information provided digitally to an increasingly technology-enabled consumer is clearly our future.
“Further, our industry is experiencing a generational supply chain shock that will have lasting ramifications. We need the tools now to help us as we recover and restructure these supply chains. For example, companies are now looking at how they can make supply chains nimbler, and this includes the ability to easily repurpose inventories – a chore that is made more manageable and cost effective if product can be easily relabelled.”
It also says any moves to “new-shore” Made in USA production “will stimulate greater need for US-based skills in the areas of software design and engineering, labelling manufacturing, and compliance.”
The group believes the future of apparel labelling will take the shape of a QR code, human-readable URL, other scanning technology, or some combination of these technologies printed on or embedded in a label.