Federal over-regulation nabs another victim: Television

To take one glaring example of federal overreach: the Department of Energy (DOE) recently set test procedures for measuring power consumption in televisions when an up-to-date test is about to be published. This new regulation, which essentially reinvents the wheel, is a waste of government resources and taxpayer dollars and could also hamper innovation and end up hurting consumers.

The DOE’s decision occurred just a few days before World Standards Day, October 14, which aims to raise awareness among regulators, industry and consumers on the importance of standardization throughout the global economy. After all, DOE’s action undermines the very spirit of voluntary standards development and the role it plays in supporting innovation and growth.

ADVERTISEMENT
In the last decade, the industry has set its own standards for TV manufacturers, following guidelines for energy conservation laid out in the federally approved EnergyGuide labeling program and the EPA’s voluntary ENERGY STAR program.

And it worked. Televisions that meet today’s ENERGY STAR requirements are, on average, 40 percent more energy efficient than conventional models, saving Americans a total of $3.5 billion per year on their energy bills, according to the EPA. The amount of power needed per unit of screen size fell 63 percent for LCD TVs from 2003 to 2010, and fell 41 percent for plasma TVs from 2008 to 2010. It’s important to note that today’s average television costs about $21 a year to power – compared to $324 a year for the average water heater and $329 a year for central air conditioning.

Allowing private industry to set standards for testing and manufacturing televisions made (and still makes) sense. No one else has consumers’ interests as much at heart, as customers are the driving force behind any business’s success. And no one else – certainly not the federal government – knows more about what changes and shifts may occur in the industry’s technology over time.

Not only do the DOE’s actions fly in the face of World Standards Day, they also buck the guidelines set forth in the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act (NTTAA). This act makes clear that the DOE must allow industry to set standards first, and cannot impose its own regulations if the industry standards work. The DOE also has a very poor track record in revising test procedures to account for technological developments while the private sector’s consensus standards process can move much more quickly.

What's worse, in this particular case, the DOE was working hand-in-hand with industry experts and other stakeholders to publish a standard that balances the interests of all parties. But at the last second, the DOE inexplicably published its own regulation, ensuring that its test will never fully align with industry and importantly, international standards which have been directly influenced by the work being done in U.S. industry.

Of course, we need federal regulations in some cases, but when our government is churning out the equivalent of 10 new ones every day, we have a serious problem. Unnecessary regulation wastes taxpayer money and imposes burdens on the private sector that slow innovation, stifle creativity and ultimately threaten jobs and the economy.

We urge the DOE to withdraw its new test procedure and stop wasting taxpayer dollars on onerous and redundant regulations. It’s time for the government to step back and let the private sector work out the standards that will best suit consumers, conserve energy and leave the door open to innovation.

Shapiro is president and CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA)®, the U.S. trade association representing more than 2,000 consumer electronics companies, and author of the New York Times best-selling books Ninja Innovation: The Ten Killer Strategies of the World's Most Successful Businesses and The Comeback: How Innovation Will Restore the American Dream. His views are his own.