1 in 5 home appliances using more energy than advertised – study

1 in 5 home appliances tested by NGOs using more energy than advertised

18 everyday products found breaking EU efficiency laws

One in five home appliances tested by consumer and green groups consumes more energy than claimed on packaging.

The three year investigation into fridges, dishwashers, light bulbs and other energy-using products found undeclared energy use in a majority of product groups.

Independent laboratory tests found a vacuum cleaner using 54% more energy than claimed, a refrigerator 12% over and a TV measuring an energy class lower and with a required power down feature deactivated [1].

Homeowners may find some results surprising and others frustratingly familiar. A dishwasher was found needing two runs to clean dishes properly (lab images); an LED 20 percent less bright than advertised; and a tumble dryer blocked from powering down by a single light remaining on in its dashboard.

The MarketWatch project, co-financed by the European Commission and run by a coalition of European civil society groups, instructed accredited labs to follow official procedures to verify compliance with EU product efficiency rules [2]. The project used a range of intelligence to focus on products and sectors thought to be failing, so the results do not reflect the market as a whole. Sample sizes reflected those used by market surveillance authorities for half the products studied. Smaller samples were used where manufacturers accepted initial findings or products were being discontinued.

Experts estimate that over €10 billion worth of energy savings are lost each year from manufacturers and retailers not following EU product rules. This is eating away at the €465 average energy bill cut promised to every European home from the EU Ecodesign Directive and Energy Labelling Directive [3].

Multiple manufacturers told MarketWatch they would push out in-home software updates to address the issues identified and bring their products into line. There are currently no rules preventing updates that raise energy use and MarketWatch called on the European Commission to table rules to prevent this.

MarketWatch spokesman, Jack Hunter, said: “Consumers are getting less bang for their buck than what they think. The authorities have clearly got more work to do to protect consumers and the environment from products that are using more energy than advertised.”

For more on the test regime and results, read the full report here.

Ends


Notes

[1] A table of all products tested by MarketWatch that were found to have issues in testing, and estimate of likely impact.

[2] The energy efficiency of products is regulated by the Ecodesign Directive and Energy Labelling Directive. More details, click here.
[3] €465 savings each year, estimated by the Commission based on product rules now in force. Savings at this level are expected from 2020 when efficient products are installed in homes. For more, click here.

Read a MarketWatch report on retailer non-compliance with EU rules, click here.

 

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Stakeholders react to MarketWatch

We held a packed final project meeting in Brussels last week.

Besides unveiling our final retail and laboratory findings, we were joined by MEP Dario Tamburrano, leading the revision of the energy label for Parliament. As such, the meeting was useful not only as a snapshot of the state of play of enforcement levels across much of the EU, but also a forward look to how the energy label will evolve.

For those that want to trace a speaker or presentation, the attendance list is here and presentation can be downloaded below.

 

Who is and isn’t playing by the rules?

MarketWatch final event with Dario Tamburrano

What: The MarketWatch project has checked 737 stores and 103,141 products across Europe over three years to see if retailers and manufacturers are following energy labelling and Ecodesign rules. Retail results suggest some sectors are particularly problematic. Check and lab tests suggest problems in one out of every five products, concentrated around dishwashers, lighting and standby.

Following a presentation of results, two panel discussions will ask what role civil society should play in monitoring regulation and what role technology should play in market surveillance.

Meeting agenda

When: 2 March 2016, registration with sandwich lunch from 12.45, main event from 13:30pm to 18:15, cocktail reception from 18.25 to 19:30

Where: Maelbeek Room, Residence Palace, Wetstraat 155, Brussels

Who: Guest speakers from the European Commission, state authorities and CECED, with an address by Dario Tamburrano, lead MEP for the ongoing energy label reform.

Registration is now closed

Trust in products after VWgate

TV makers questioned about VW-like software tricks and fridge-makers stripped of their energy label – recent media revelations may well have shaken trust in Europe’s energy label. So how far can the public now trust that colourful tool?

There are some clear parallels with VWgate: government agencies saying TVs appear to be gaming official tests through clever software. With the VW story hot, the news soon made headlines worldwide and it wasn’t long before journalists were asking us whether we could trust the label at all.

Our answer is ‘90%, yes’. This, experts think, is the likely losses of expected energy savings due to manufacturers and retailers not playing by the Ecodesign and energy labelling rules, probably more cock-up than conspiracy. It’s hard to be precise of course –rule breaking and data gathering aren’t great playmates.

We were also quick to point out that the TV story raises concerns from the authorities, not proof, though the Swedes were pretty clear they thought it was more conspiracy than cock-up. So there is no evidence to suggest this is more widespread, but fresh news stories appear almost daily. What is important, and everyone can agree on, is the need for well-resourced government departments able to keep a lid on this area, especially as products get more sophisticated and computerised.

All this sets the scene nicely for MarketWatch lab tests, with the first results expected shortly, as trailed in the Daily Telegraph.

German court: DIY now!

A court in Germany has told DIY chain Obi to label its products properly so shoppers get the energy efficiency information they deserve. The court in Cologne ruled that adverts and web pages showing products with prices must also have an energy efficiency class and it is not acceptable to only show the energy rating on sub-pages. The case was brought by MarketWatch partner VZBV and follows a similar ruling last summer. If Obi fails to comply with the ruling, made on 20 August, it faces a €250,000 fine or jail time for its bosses.

Retailers failing to display energy labels properly

Our second round shop inspections are done and the results paint an unwelcome picture.

MarketWatch checked 30,000 products in 243 shops across Europe, online and offline. Half the products we looked at had labelling problems. One in five had no label at all, making it impossible for consumers to accurately judge the energy performance of TVs, fridges and a host of other common products. A further one third either had formatting problems (20%), were out of sight (4%) or on the wrong product (3%).

 

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We found nearly 500 products for sale that should no longer be placed on the market because they are considered energy guzzlers, though it is impossible for us to tell if this is old stock and therefore compliant. Either way, retailers should be looking to end these lines for the good of shoppers. Vacuum cleaners, tumble driers and air conditioning units were among the worst offenders.

Things were particularly bad online, where just one in three products were properly labelled. These failures all break EU Ecodesign Directive and Energy Labelling Directive rules and leave retailers open to being fined by national authorities, who will receive the MarketWatch second round retail report.

Shop inspections took place in a range of stores, from big electrical retailers to hypermarkets and specialist showrooms. They were selected for being higher risk and are not representative of the market as a whole. Named results will be published shortly, following dialogue with the retailers. The second round results are consistent with our first retail report.

 

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The European Commission last week announced that energy labels will get a makeover, a move it said would be good for retailers, consumers and manufacturers. Trade body Eurocommerce said it welcomes clearer labels, but not the hassle involved replacing old labels. It earlier told the press that the sector was not ready for new online labelling rules. We’re sorry to see it not taking a more proactive stance here, for the benefit of customers.

Energy guzzling appliances can add hundreds of Euros to any home’s electricity bill, yet big name retailers are letting down the 85 percent of shoppers that use energy labels to compare fridges, TVs and big ticket products. Retailers know they’ve got a problem, especially online, and its time they got their house in order.

 

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1 year to go – a recap

With just a year left to run, here’s a quick recap on what MarketWatch has achieved so far:

  • Checked the energy label on 67,000 products and sent over 100 letters to alert retailers
  • Gained nearly 200 press articles reaching over 17 million people in the UK alone
  • Held nearly 30 meetings with national authorities
  • Gained the interest of 250 organisations subscribing to our newsletter

The next 6-8 months will see a crescendo of action, with the second round of shop inspections concluded and a whirlwind of product inspections and lab tests. Watch this space.

OSRAM packaging eco with the truth

The world’s second biggest light bulb maker has pledged to drop the term ‘eco’ from packaging of halogen products. OSRAM did not concede its packaging is misleading, but green / consumer campaign Coolproducts said that applying the term eco to the least efficient bulbs on the market would mislead consumers. It said that although the term ‘eco’ isn’t specifically prohibited in European law, official European Commission guidance rules out using the word. It is not clear if other big lighting firms also marketing ‘eco halogens’ will follow suit. For MarketWatch, this is a good example of civil society bringing about a near instantaneous change from a major manufacturer. For more details, click here.

100+ product tests imminent

MarketWatch will start product check-tests in the coming weeks, purchasing 100 appliances from around Europe and running them through expertly-devised tests developed by independent consultancies, in liaison with national authorities. We’re a little behind schedule here, following a second round of expert input to complement work already undertaken. First up though, we’re putting the finishing touches to our list of target products, informed by a long list of intelligence sources. MarketWatch wants to involve outside civil society interests, so further intelligence from such groups is welcome. The finale will be full-blown lab tests of the most suspicious products followed by dialogue with manufacturers and media.

Shop inspections forge ahead

A second major phase of street level shop inspections by MarketWatch project partners is nearing completion, with 110 shops scrutinised to see if energy label and Ecodesign information display rules are being followed. Most shops not doing so well last time have been revisited, and new ones selected from the shop types suspected of having lower compliance rates. We’re waiting a little before carrying out similar checks online, since new rules from 1 January need a bit of time to bed-in, as they only concern new products. It was thought that many online retailers are not ready for the change, but we’re working together with individual shops, industry associations and the authorities to improve matters where we can, since this will surely help consumers be better informed and better able to find the most energy efficient appliances. Expect our second retailer report in Spring. A third round of shop visits will take place in Autumn 2015.