GS1 guidelines on the use of EPC/RFID for consumer products

Introduction

Electronic Product Code™ (EPC)-enabled RFID technology uses Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for the automatic identification of consumer products. RFID is now being used in everything from automobiles to security pass cards, and it serves a variety of purposes. One of its widespread uses is in devices such as EZ Pass in the US and Liber-T in France that speed the passage of autos through highway toll booths.

Benefits

EPC/RFID has the potential to be used on many everyday consumer products as they move through the supply chain – from factories through distribution centres and into retail stores. As EPC/RFID evolves, it promises to offer significant benefits to consumers and companies. The improved information in the supply chain will help speed products to the shelf and insure they are available when consumers want and in the quantities they need. Removal of expired products will be easier, and prompt removal of any recalled product will be facilitated. In addition, checkout times for customers could be significantly shortened.

Privacy

To allow EPC/RFID to realise its potential for consumers, retailers and suppliers, it is important to address privacy concerns prompted by the current state of the technology while establishing principles for dealing with its evolution and implementation. Accordingly, companies spearheading the deployment of EPC/RFID have adopted the following Guidelines for use by all companies rolling out this technology. These Guidelines are intended to complement compliance with the substantive and comprehensive body of national and international legislation and regulation that deals with consumer protection, consumer privacy and related issues. They are based, and will continue to be based, on industry responsibility, providing accurate information to consumers and ensuring consumer choice.

Evolution

As new developments in EPC/RFID and its deployment occur, these Guidelines will evolve while continuing to represent the fundamental commitments of industry to consumers. It is hoped that further developments, including advances in technology, new applications and enhanced post-purchase benefits, will provide even more choices to both consumers and companies on the use of EPC/RFID tags. Companies adopting EPC/RFID support continuing their focused efforts in these development areas to assure responsible and effective development of both the EPC/RFID technology and these Guidelines.

Administration

These Guidelines will be administered by GS1. GS1 also sets and maintains standards for the product code now used on consumer products. For EPC/RFID to gain broad acceptance, consumers must have confidence in its value, benefits and the integrity of its use. EPC/RFID users are committed to gaining and retaining this public confidence. GS1 will monitor the proper use of these Guidelines and be responsible for updating them.

Because EPC/RFID is in an early development stage, usage Guidelines supplementing or modifying those below will evolve as applications are developed and implemented. For example, if developments in the technology or its use provide consumers added flexibility in controlling EPC/RFID tags or record personal consumer information beyond that provided by conventional bar code technology, changes to notices required to consumers or to the Guidelines themselves may be appropriate.

GS1 Guidelines on the Use of EPC/RFID for Consumer Products

The purpose of these Guidelines is to provide a responsible basis for the use of EPC/RFID technology for consumer items. These guidelines were developed by the GS1 Public Policy Steering Committee (PPSC). Under the auspices of GS1, these Guidelines have been followed since January 1, 2005 and will continue to evolve as advances in EPC/RFID and its applications are made and consumer research is conducted. As EPC/RFID evolves, so too will new issues. EPC/RFID users are committed to addressing these issues and engaging in a dialogue about them with interested parties.

1. Consumer Notice

Consumers will be given clear notice of the presence of EPC/RFID tags on products or their packaging and will be informed of the use of EPC/RFID technology. This notice will be given through the use of an EPC symbol (the EPC "cube") or identifier on the products or packaging.

2. Consumer Choice
Consumers will be informed of the choices that are available to discard or remove or in the future disable EPC/RFID tags from the products they acquire.  It is anticipated that for most products, the EPC/RFID tags would be part of disposable packaging or would be otherwise discardable.  GS1, among other supporters of the technology, is committed to finding additional efficient, cost effective and reliable alternatives to further enable customer choice.

3. Consumer Education
Consumers will have the opportunity easily to obtain accurate information about EPC/RFID and its applications, as well as information about advances in the technology. Companies using EPC/RFID tags at the consumer level will cooperate in appropriate ways to familiarise consumers with the EPC symbol ("cube") and to help consumers understand the technology and its benefits. GS1 would also act as a forum for both companies and consumers to learn of and address any uses of EPC/RFID technology in a manner inconsistent with these Guidelines.

4. Record Use, Retention and Security
EPC/RFID tags do not contain, collect or store any personally identifiable information.  As with conventional barcode technology, data which is associated with EPC/RFID will be collected, used, maintained, stored and protected by the GS1 member companies in compliance with applicable laws.  Companies will publish, in compliance with all applicable laws, information on their policies regarding the retention, use and protection of any personally identifiable information associated with EPC/RFID use.

Frequently Asked Questions for: GS1 Guidelines on the Use of EPC/RFID for Consumer Products

Background

GS1 Guidelines on the Use of EPC/RFID for Consumer Products were adopted as a basic framework for responsible use and deployment of EPC/RFID. The Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) below provide guidance on current EPC/RFID issues. The questions and answers are intended to complement the Guidelines and create a greater understanding of their meaning and application.

These FAQs represent the general views of the GS1 Community on certain specific issues. The Guidelines and the FAQs will evolve as appropriate to keep pace with advances in the technology and new developments in its application.

General information about EPC/RFID tags or systems is available at gs1.org/epc-rfid.

General

 

GS1 knows that earning consumer trust is integral to adoption of this technology. GS1 and its members are committed to the responsible deployment and use of EPC/RFID as they capture the benefits of the technology. The guidelines provide a practical and useful framework to help members achieve that objective.

The Guidelines apply to consumer product goods with EPC/RFID tags that are intended to come under an individual's control and are intended for individual consumer use. The vast majority of consumer products that are purchased will not be tagged with an EPC/RFID at the item level for a number of years.

Consumer Notice

 

It is important for all members to provide clear notice to consumers as set forth in the Guidelines so that consumers know that the product they are purchasing contains an EPC/RFID tag. Responsibility for achieving this objective resides with both manufacturers and retailers through broad-scale cooperation.

The guidelines state that all consumers will be provided with clear notice of the presence of EPC/RFID. GS1 expects that all products produced by members containing EPC/RFID tags will bear the symbol ("cube") required by the Guidelines. Manufacturers should inform their customers (generally retailers or distributors) if EPC/RFID tags are on products that consumers will purchase. GS1 encourages all retailers who know that EPC/RFID tags are on products they sell to help in efforts to make consumers aware of the tags. This may take the form of store signage, information brochures at the customer service desk, or other communication methods appropriate for the business. See “Retailers Tool Kit” or “Manufacturers Tool Kit” for more information on communicating with customers about EPC/RFID.

In rare circumstances, it may be impractical to include the EPC symbol ("cube") on a product in a way that is both meaningful and aesthetically neutral. In those circumstances, members must look at other available opportunities to ensure that consumers are made aware of the presence of an EPC/RFID tag on the product. Although GS1 cannot specify a single best approach in this situation, it anticipates that members manufacturing or selling these products will cooperate in developing appropriate methods to satisfy the objective of consumer notice.

Consumer Choice

 

The Guidelines require that consumers be informed of the choices that are available to discard or remove or in the future disable EPC/RFID tags from the products they acquire. As EPC/RFID technology evolves, GS1 also expects the nature and quality of these choices to evolve. Although not available today, development of efficient, affordable and reliable technology to disable EPC/RFID tags is an objective supported by GS1.

GS1 believes that most products will have disposable EPC/RFID tags to provide consumers with effective control over the tag. In some situations, though, the EPC/RFID tag may be embedded within the structure of a product, making it impossible or impractical for a manufacturer or retailer to provide any “choice” for a consumer to dispose of the tag. In such cases, manufacturers and retailers should engage in broad-scale cooperation to ensure consumers understand prior to purchase that the product contains an embedded EPC/RFID tag. Methods through which companies comply with the notice objective for such a product may be broader in order to address this issue.

The EPC/RFID tag inserted into a printed fabric label meets the requirements of the Guidelines if it meets the notice and choice provisions in the Guidelines.  If the consumer can easily cut the EPC/RFID tag off the printed fabric label, or cut out the entire fabric label, then the “consumer choice” provision is met.  Care should be taken with fabric care and content labels to ensure that removing the EPC/RFID tag does not also remove the fabric care or content information.  Consumers are likely to want to keep this information attached to the item.

Consumer Education

 

GS1 and its member companies are committed to ongoing consumer education about EPC/RFID, including its benefits and limitations. The goal is to increase awareness and understanding of EPC so that every consumer will come to recognise the EPC symbol ("cube") as an indication that EPC/RFID tags are present.

The GS1 EPC/RFID website, www.gs1.org/epc-rfid contains specific information about EPC/RFID systems and tags.

Record Use, Retention and Security

 

EPC/RFID tags do not contain any personally identifiable information about consumers. The only information that is contained in the EPC/RFID tag relates to the product, not the purchaser.