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GMA Endorses RFID, EPC Benefits for Industry, Consumers, Society

WASHINGTON - Radio frequency identification technology (RFID) and the Electronic Product Code (EPC) could offer significant potential benefits to industry, consumers, and society at large when fully implemented, GMA said in written testimony submitted yesterday to the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Commerce Trade and Consumer Protection.

While acknowledging that there are legitimate privacy implications concerning RFID and EPC, Mary Sophos, GMA's s.v.p. and chief government affairs officer, noted that privacy guidelines for the use of these technologies were created by EPCglobal and endorsed by GMA's Board of Directors in January. The guidelines cover four areas: consumer notice, choice and education, along with record use, retention and security.

In addition, Sophos added, manufacturers have invested billions of dollars to create consumer trust in their brands and to maintain that trust, it is in the industry's interest to act responsibly when implementing any new technology.

While summarizing the development and potential benefits of RFID and EPC for manufacturers, retailers and consumers, GMA also pointed out that implementation at the item level is years away. For that reason, "enacting laws and promulgating regulations now would likely do more harm than good, as the benefits of these technologies have not been fully explored," Sophos added.

Under Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act, the FTC has authority to regulate unfair or deceptive practices in and affecting commerce. In recent years, the Commission has used this authority to regulate the manner in which businesses collect and use consumers' personal information on the grounds that a company's failure to abide by its published privacy policies is a deceptive practice under the act.

Michael E. Diegel, GMA's director of communications, told Progressive Grocer the testimony offered yesterday was a part of the trade association's ongoing educational efforts aimed to help enlighten, "a number of different organizations -- from Congress down to state legislatures to other groups -- about these technologies and help them get past some of the hype they may have heard and better understand what this technology is, what it does, and what it might be able to do."
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