The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it will require manufacturers to use new labels on recall notification mailings, as of February 18. In an effort to draw a clear distinction between a recall notice and a piece of junk mail, the very clear (though rather artless) design you see above will call out official NHTSA business.

The new label is a strike against "misleading sales and marketing materials that mimic ... legitimate safety recall alerts from manufacturers," says an official NHTSA press release. The agency plans to enlist the help of other Federal agencies, including the FTC, to both monitor and enforce the proper use of this new designation.

Long story short: if you see this graphic in your mailbox, don't throw it in the recycle bin.

The NHTSA press release also makes mention of an Android version of the agency's mobile app, as well (previously available for iOS devices only). You can find the details of that update, along with a bit more info about the new labels, in the official press release below.
Show full PR text
NHTSA Announces New Mandatory Label to Help Owners Instantly Identify Recall Mailings

Recall labels and new SaferCar App for Android are latest NHTSA efforts to raise recall awareness

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced that starting February 18, all manufacturers must use a distinctive label on required mailings that notify owners of recalled vehicles or equipment. The requirement was introduced to help owners instantly distinguish important recall notices arriving in their mailboxes from other assorted correspondence and avoid mistakenly discarding critical safety notices.

"Recalls only work if consumers are aware of them," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. "This new label will allow consumers to quickly recognize recall notices mailed to their homes so they can act quickly to get their vehicles, child restraints, tires, or other motor vehicle equipment fixed."

The use of the new label is strictly limited to only the recalling manufacturers. This measure will help protect consumers from misleading sales and marketing materials that mimic, in their wording and presentation, legitimate safety recall alerts from manufacturers that can lead owners to purchase costly products and services that have no connection to a legitimate safety recall. As always, NHTSA will monitor for inappropriate materials and will work closely with state and other federal authorities, including the FTC, to address enforcement issues.

The new label on safety recall notices is one of many new tools designed to improve recall notification for consumers.

Today, NHTSA also launched an app for Android devices that will provide users free access to key safety information, including recalls and safety performance. The new Android SaferCar app, which joins the iOS app for the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch released last year, helps consumers find recall information and up-to-date vehicle safety information, search the agency's 5-Star Safety Ratings for vehicles by make and model, and subscribe to automatic notices about vehicle recalls, among other features.

The app makes it simple to submit complaints to NHTSA regarding possible safety problems with a particular vehicle. App users receive important news and information from NHTSA on tire and child seat recalls as well.

"NHTSA plays an important role in investigating potential safety defects, overseeing all safety recalls and warning the public of potential safety issues involving vehicles, car seats, tires and other equipment," said NHTSA Acting Administrator David Friedman. "By providing new and convenient tools for consumers, we hope to empower owners to take action to ensure their vehicles and loved ones are safe."

Below are additional tools and tips from the nation's top auto safety agency:

Register Your Cars, Tires and Car Seats: Receive NHTSA email notifications when the manufacturer files the recall with the federal government. There is no way to locate or notify individual owners of car seats or tires if the product is not registered with the manufacturer or NHTSA.
Get Alerts Sent Directly to Your Phone: NHTSA's Safercar mobile app is available for both Apple devices and Android devices, or RSS feed sends recall information directly and conveniently to Android and iPhone users. It provides information on crash test ratings and child seat installation locations.
Check for Open Recalls on Used Cars: Verify with the previous owner or dealer whether or not a used car has been fixed. NHTSA's premier website, www.safercar.gov, provides a general search tool to help consumers identify recalls that may affect their vehicle. Later this year, VIN look-up will be available on the site when a new NHTSA mandate goes into effect making it easier for consumers to access this information.


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  • 29 Comments
      Muttons
      • 10 Months Ago
      Well, I regularly get "important notices about my car" in the mail and they are always offers of extended warranties. This is welcome. Who cares how it looks as long as it gets to us and doesn't get thrown away.
        Jobu
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Muttons
        So you support a law simply because you're irritated at having to sort through your mail? You do not deserve freedom and neither do most of the sheep in this once great nation.
      @_jorts
      • 10 Months Ago
      I would imagine this is also to discourage automakers from making recall notices look like junk mail. The less people who read them the less people who get work done, the less people who get work done the less money it costs the automakers.
      Rob J
      • 10 Months Ago
      In Canada, recall notices are marked as being from the federal government, pretty sure it would be illegal for any solicitation to copy that. Either way, worked fine for a friends Jeep Liberty 2 years ago. Maybe the US could just copy it's Northern neighbor.
      knightrider_6
      • 10 Months Ago
      I am outraged at this violation of my freedom and my rights. This is a slippery slope. What's next? Nutrition labels on food packages? Cancer warning on cigarette boxes?
      ksrcm
      • 10 Months Ago
      I wonder why are people allowed to do business/profit while using my private property? You know? That mailbox? I bought it and I paid for it - it is my private property and you are NOT invited. Your protected freedom of speech doesn't mean you can enter my living room at midnight and have your say, so why doesn't same rules apply to my mailbox, my telephone, my TV at least? It's almost like Mother Russia - your property is private until we say it isn't because there's too much money at stake to allow it to be private.
        Jamie Houk
        • 10 Months Ago
        @ksrcm
        Actually Federal law states are mailboxes are Federal property. That is why it is a Federal crime to damage one.
          mycommentemail
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Jamie Houk
          Because you aren't required to have one. But if you do, as long as it is used as a mailbox, it is considered federal property. The reason for this is to protect you. Stealing or tampering with the box (presumably to get to the mail within, or to prevent you from getting your mail, or to fill with fake mail) is then a federal crime. But you as the property owner may remove it at from service at any time, after which it behind your property again.
          mycommentemail
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Jamie Houk
          I'm not sure what your concern is. By putting up a mailbox you are entering into a contract with the U.S. Postal service. This contract stipulates that as long as you have the box up and generally identified as a mailbox designed to receive mail delivered by the federal mail system that this mailbox is protected under federal law. Don't get hung up on the idea of the box being federal "property". It merely says that the use of this box falls under federal jurisdiction. If you do not wish to enter in to this contract with the Postal Service, then buy your mailbox and stick it in your bathroom. It remains your property and you can do with it whatever you want. The actual physical box is also your property even when it is hanging outside your house waiting for your daily deluge of mortgage refi offers, but the space inside the box is reserved for U.S. Postal service use alone. From that perspective, it is considered federal property. But the actual metal and plastic isn't. Ultimately I think you are trying very hard to make a mountain out of a molehill. If you don't want a mailbox with its contractual baggage, don't get one. You also have the option of getting a mail slot in your door (which is not protected the same way) or a P.O. Box. But getting nerd rage over semantics over who "owns" the space inside your mailbox is wasted energy. There are a lot of things the government does wrong. This isn't one of them.
          mycommentemail
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Jamie Houk
          You are, of course, entitled to your opinion and I apologize if I came off as a bit of an ass. Far too easy for me to do sometimes. But, as long as we are discussing semantics I'll throw this out there :) By having a mailbox, you have agreed to accept mail. That is the basic contract that you are entering into. That is also, I think, all the explicit consent that is needed. You have agreed to receive this mail (wanted or unwanted) by putting up the box. In other words, the fact that you get mail that you never requested (or wanted) has no bearing on whether you "own" the mailbox (which, in fact, you do own). These are basically the terms you agree to by using the mailbox. If you do not wish to receive mail then you are not required to use a mailbox. To that end, the box physically belongs to you. You may paint it. You may take it down and use it as a planter. You can take pictures of it and put them up on facebook without getting permission. But as part of a contract you have entered into with the Federal Government, this box is protected (and regulated - there are size and placement restrictions as well). Once you leave the contract (by removing the box or clearly designating that it is no longer to be used for U.S. Mail) then it is no longer protected or regulated. I think the term "property" is what is causing the issue here. It isn't federal property in the same sense that we typically consider things to be property. It falls under federal jurisdiction and regulations as long as it is part of the contract you have willingly entered into.
          ksrcm
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Jamie Houk
          I will respectfully disagree. In this case, semantics is everything. Whomever is spamming your mailbox (yes, yours), your phone (yes, yours) and your TV (yes, yours) is using your property to make money - without your consent. OK, let me be more specific ... without your EXPLICIT consent. And, as you suggest, if there were no mailboxes, no phones and no TVs they would be out of business. The fact that they would be out of business proves that they are using your property which you bought with your money to do business - again, without your explicit consent. If you are OK with that, that is OK. I am not OK with that. I hope that is OK as well. Or is it?
          ksrcm
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Jamie Houk
          @mycommentemail "But you as the property owner may remove it at from service at any time, after which it behind your property again." So ... I can buy a mailbox but if I want to use it for what it was meant to be used, it is not my property. However, if I take it out of use, then it is my property. And this sincerely makes any sense to you? Really?
          ksrcm
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Jamie Houk
          "These are basically the terms you agree to by using the mailbox. If you do not wish to receive mail then you are not required to use a mailbox." Why does it have to be 0/1 switch? I mean, I do have a door on my house, but nobody even dreams about getting in uninvited. It is perfectly understood that only invited people will get past that door. The existence of the door itself doesn't mean automatic invitation. Right? So, yes, I do have my mailbox. I'm subscribed to three car magazines, I sent them money in exchange for them sending me their wares. That would be the invitation I talked about for real door. For every car magazine I receive there will be 10 uninvited "guests" in my mailbox. If it were my house, I'd just put a cap in their a**, but there's seemingly nothing I can do with my mailbox. Or my phone. Or my TV for that matter. Thanks for playing nicely.
          mycommentemail
          • 10 Months Ago
          @Jamie Houk
          "For every car magazine I receive there will be 10 uninvited "guests" in my mailbox. If it were my house, I'd just put a cap in their a**, but there's seemingly nothing I can do with my mailbox. Or my phone. Or my TV for that matter." In this we are in total agreement. "Thanks for playing nicely." I try. I fail sometimes. But I try :)
      Jobu
      • 10 Months Ago
      Ladies and Gentleman, I now present you with the new design of all car-related junk mail for the next five to ten years. Congratulations government, your stupidity is ceaseless!
      Car Guy
      • 10 Months Ago
      Once again, instead of addressing the root problem of junk mail masquerading as official mail, the government creates another hoop carmakers have to jump through. Big or small, every regulation cost is passed onto the consumer.
        mycommentemail
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Car Guy
        But this is exactly that. It gives the FTC the tools to go after junk mailers by designating this look to be, in your words, official mail. If recall notices now have a protected look then if a junk mailer mimics that look they can be (hopefully) shut down. How exactly would you have the government "address the root problem of junk mail masquerading as official mail" without being able to designate what "official mail" looks like? That sounds like a recipe for disaster as you now have the government arbitrarily deciding what is and isn't legitimate looks for private mailings. If you instead have a designated official look for these kinds of mailings then you at least have a standard that you can adjudicate against.
      Jarda
      • 10 Months Ago
      Just another bureau creating reasons for its own existence. Move on.
      Jamie Houk
      • 10 Months Ago
      Unless they make it a crime, and enforce it, the junk mail marketers will simply copy this label in very short order. Especially since the NHTSA has put the label out there for the whole world to see and copy. Why could they not simply start using it without some big broadcast
        AutoVido
        • 10 Months Ago
        @Jamie Houk
        I assumed this was directed at mail being sent from legitimate car manufacturers and dealerships, not anonymous spammers. I've complained to Subaru Canada about Subaru dealerships sending promotional material in envelopes that looked like recall notices. I assume this sort of law is in response to this; a typical free-enterprise "we'll bend the rules as far as we can, forcing the government then to step in and create another law we wouldn't have needed if companies just did what was right in the first place". I can't find the email exchange, but I seem to recall the dealership's response was "It is expensive to send out mailers, and we wanted to make sure that customers opened the letters and could then benefit from the wonderful deals we were offering them." They stopped doing this at least a year ago, though.
      normc32
      • 10 Months Ago
      Does Toyota benefit from a bulk mail rate?
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