‘Confusing’ energy efficiency product labels to be replaced

The European Union is to replace the current confusing A+++ to G product labels by “clearer and easier to use” A to G labels.

A database to make it easier for people to compare the relative energy efficiency of appliances will also be introduced. Such appliances are deemed responsible for almost 40 per cent of all EU greenhouse gas emissions.

Simpler labeling is expected to help consumers make even better informed purchasing choices to reduce energy use and bills, while stimulating manufacturers to innovate and invest in more efficient products. To date, operating under the ECO design directive, the UK Government reckon these policies are already saving the average UK household L67 a year, the average SME L700 p.a., and the average larger businesses some L24,000 per year.

The labels will accompany the products in printed format, and their online versions and product information will be searchable and downloadable. Lead MEP Dario Tamburrano said: “After 20 years, traditional labels for electric products will be upgraded to 2.0 version. They could contain a QR code or a link that allows citizens to access an online database: labels will become bridges to a digital universe containing all the information impossible to be noted just on paper.

“The creation of a detailed database and digital tools, like smartphone apps, will enable consumers to make immediate comparisons among the products on the market.”

The EU originally used an A to G system of labels to inform consumers of the most energy-efficient electrical appliances like washing machines, dishwashers, and freezers. However, as the efficiency of such white goods improved, some manufacturers lobbied successfully for the A to G system to be augmented by new labels running for A+ to A+++. Environmentalists have argued that this approach confuses consumers and means products that are a long way short of best in class are able to retain an A or A+ label.

The EU now acknowledges that the system of A+ labels has become “misleading and hides potential substantial differences in energy performance” Polls indicate that 85 per cent of consumers look at the labels when making purchases.     

The European Commission’s Vice-President for Energy Union Maroš Šefc?ovic? says it is important the labeling system kept pace with technical improvements across the industry. “Technological innovations allow European citizens to enjoy the most advanced products on the market; it is therefore high time to bring our labeling scale up to date,” he argues. “The new labels will be empowering consumers large and small to take energy efficiency even more into account when choosing their next electric products.”

Commissioner for Climate Action and Energy, Miguel Arias Canete, added that the new labelling scheme, together with Eco-design standards that require products to reach a minimum level of energy efficiency, could save households close to €500 a year, while also increasing manufacturers and retailers’ annual revenues by over €65bn. This would save annual energy consumption equivalent to that of Italy and all the Baltic countries combined.

Significantly, the Commission said the new proposals would ‘futureproof’ the legislation by allowing for software updates to appliances, incorporating new smart devices. It would also explicitly ban the use of so-called ‘defeat devices’ similar to those used by Volkswagen in the ‘dieselgate’ scandal in order to undermine EU standards.

There remain fears that, within the UK, pressure from some UK manufacturers making less energy efficient products like vacuum cleaners and hair dryers will lead to certain energy standards being eliminated during the Brexit process.

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