WHITE PAPER: ANSI/PLATO FL 1-2016 Standard: The lighting industry must take notice
fraud [frôd] NOUN Wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in financial or personal gain.
If your company knowingly, or through negligence, sells a product that falsely represents its contents or performance claims, you are facilitating and participating in consumer fraud.
For example, no credible retailer or wholesaler would knowingly market and sell a 12 oz bottle of water that only contained 10 oz. This is fraud.
If you sell a length of rope that claims to have 100 feet on the package but only has 80 feet this is fraud.
Likewise, if you manufacture, market or sell a flashlight that claims to produce 500 lumens when it only produces 200, this is fraud.
It is the responsibility of the reseller and the supplier to ensure that products being offered do not make false representations.
It all sounds pretty simple, but, in the portable lighting industry, it can be more complicated. The ANSI/PLATO FL-1 2016 Standard provides clarity but today’s resellers and consumers are sometimes not aware of the standard or, in some cases, are choosing to ignore it.
This must change.
More than a decade ago, at the dawn of the modern Power LED age, manufacturers were making performance claims that lacked a consistent methodology.
There was no standardized way to measure the important performance functions of these products, such as how long it runs or how far the light’s beam can reach.
In the end, each portable light manufacturer developed its own methods for computing these measurements. And while most of these processes’ were based on solid science, there was no consensus on methodology.
As a result, many products with nearly the same performance had large discrepancies in reported claims (and vice-versa). This put some manufacturers at a disadvantage. In order to keep up with the competition, the only solution was to find new ways to calculate these key metrics to increase the reported numbers.
In the end, there was a lot of confusion throughout the industry and eventually a great deal of exaggerated claims.
For the consumer, this was a serious problem. There was no way to really know what you were buying. There was no way to accurately compare the claims reported on packaging from one supplier to the next.
Enter PLATO and FL-1
In an effort to find a collective solution to the inconsistencies that existed, several prominent portable lighting manufacturers convened a meeting. Over the next couple years, they collaborated to develop common test methods and reporting requirements that became the FL 1 standard. The work was guided by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and reviewed and revised by dozens of leading academics, scientists and industry experts.
The ANSI/NEMA FL 1 Standard was first published in 2009. Within the first 18 months, the standard became the most rapidly and widely adopted standard in the history of ANSI Standards. It became the benchmark for the industry and significantly benefited consumers by improving portable lighting quality and the transparency of packaging claims.
Following the standard’s publication, the manufacturers who developed it formed a trade group known as the Portable Lights American Trade Organization (PLATO). PLATO’s mission was – and still is today - to further the work on the standard and to encourage its adoption throughout the industry.
Since its inception, PLATO has represented a wide variety of portable lighting manufacturers. In 2015, PLATO became an ANSI-Accredited Standards Developer, and, in late 2016, PLATO published the second edition of the standard, the ANSI/PLATO FL 1-2016 Standard.
The second edition clarified measurement language, reduced duplications and eliminated unnecessary operations. It also refined specific laboratory procedures and testing conditions.
The third edition, scheduled to be published in 2019, will expand the scope of the standard to include area lights and further refine specific lab testing procedures and conditions.
Today PLATO manages the standard and will continue to work to improve it to reflect the rapidly changing technology and needs of the industry. The ANSI/PLATO FL 1-2016 Standard also continues to gain worldwide acceptance and is now used and recognized across North America, the EU, Asia, the Middle East and parts of Africa.
Consumers, and everyone else within the industry, can now clearly compare the performance of portable lighting products across a number of critical metrics including, brightness, run time, beam distance, water resistance, impact resistance and others.
Why retailers & wholesalers should care about the Standard
First, it allows buyers to make solid comparisons of value and performance from all available suppliers.
Second, the standard reduces the chance that a supplier will make false or misleading claims either by mistake or otherwise and that these misrepresented products will find their way onto your shelves.
Close adherence to the ANSI-PLATO FL-1 2016 Standard ensures this will never happen. It protects your company from expensive and potentially damaging financial, legal and public relations consequences.
No retailer would knowingly display products that make false claims. Doing so is participating in consumer fraud, a serious crime.
The risks to the reseller of false claims are rising. Attorney Generals across America and authorities in other countries are watching this space closely. There have already been charges of false advertising made against a number of suppliers.
In the end, properly marking and reporting the true performance metrics of portable lighting devices is more important today than ever before. Not only is it a matter of truth in advertising, in many cases it can be a matter of safety. Some applications, such as those for first responders, law enforcement, security, and survival, depend on accurate measurements for brightness, beam distance, and run time. Misleading these consumers can lead to serious injuries and potentially fatal mistakes.
As part of any set of “best practices” for evaluating products to be sold through your business, it is vital that performance claims be verified. This does not mean taking someone’s “word” for it or a simple test document.
PLATO is here to help.
PLATO members sign and adhere to a comprehensive code of ethics which includes among other things careful adherence to the standard wherever it applies.
If the supplier is not a PLATO member, the only appropriate action is to require third party testing be conducted on random production samples.
If your company has its own internal testing facilities and these are properly and competently maintained, you may rely on these results as a check against what the supplier is reporting.
Thanks to the work of PLATO, NEMA, ANSI and other experts, the days of “guessing” are over. There is a globally recognized and authoritative standard that has been widely adopted throughout the industry to rely on. Not doing so is simply bad for business.
The Portable Lights American Trade Organization (PLATO) is the largest internationally recognized consortium of global manufacturers in the portable lighting industry, which includes flashlights, headlights, bike lamps, area lights and spotlights. Our members are some of the most well- known and well-respected manufacturers in the world.
PLATO is also the standards development body responsible for the continued development and oversight of the Revised ANSI/PLATO FL-1 2016 Standard. The Standard spells out specific testing and reporting methods for portable lighting products that emit directional light.
For more on PLATO, visit www.plato-usa.org.