TTB Shifts COLA Compliance Obligations to Applicants to Streamline Process

In a sign of TTB’s efforts to streamline and expedite the COLAs review process, the TTB announced on May 3, 2011 that it will no longer evaluate labels for purposes of ensuring that the labels conform to legibility and type size requirements (including characters per inch and contrasting background) contained in the code. TTB will continue to review all labels to ensure they contain all of the mandatory information and do not contain any prohibited information.  According to the TTB, this change was made to both “assist alcohol beverage industry members to move their products into the marketplace more quickly” and to allow TTB to use its currently limited resources more efficiently.  As many on-line COLAs applicants have no doubt experienced, TTB had previously spent a lot of time and resources returning applications for correction due to problems with image clarity or distortion, which resulted in many processing delays for COLAs applicants.  While TTB will no longer return applications for correction due to these issues,  industry members remain responsible for and must continue to ensure that the mandatory information on the actual labels is displayed in the correct type size, number of characters per inch, and on a contrasting background in accordance with the TTB labeling regulations.  This change in policy should come as good news to the many industry members that have seen an increase in the processing times for COLAs over the past year, which was due in large part to a reduction in the COLAs staff at TTB.  However, it also shifts the responsibility for compliance onto the COLA applicant meaning that the issuance of the COLA is no guarantee of compliance and COLAs may be more readily revoked if non-compliance is demonstrated to TTB by an objecting party.

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