The 101 of MarketWatch’s product test programme

Which product groups will MarketWatch put through exhaustive lab tests to see if they truly are as efficient as their energy labels claim? Why is MarketWatch even testing when this is a job done by government departments? Tom Lock certification manager at the UK’s Energy Saving Trust, takes us through the next stage of the MarketWatch programme – what it will entail and the products that will be tested.

A few years ago the European Commission recognised the need for an extensive market surveillance of energy-using products after research showed that one in five products across Europe were presenting misleading energy saving claims.

Over the next year or so, MarketWatch will test on two levels: a screening of ten product groups for signs that products do or don’t meet energy efficiency legislation, such as Energy Labelling and Ecodesign Directive rules, and in-depth lab tests.

From September, the screening of 100 products investigating their energy performance will begin. This will cover tumble dryers, dishwashers, washing machines, televisions, vacuum cleaners, domestic lighting, set top boxes, electric ovens, fridges and the horizontal standby off-mode. Screening tests have been devised by MarketWatch then peer-reviewed by outside experts to ensure they are as robust as possible.

Following the screen testing, we will then select 20 products for the full laboratory testing. These products have not yet been confirmed but we’re keen to make sure that they resonate with consumers as ‘iconic’ home appliances. We will be using a number of Europe’s finest specialist laboratories for this stage, with these labs being selected based on its suitability for the different product groups.

During this phase of the project, we will be liaising with government agencies to ensure we complement their work rather than repeat it. We’ll also be encouraging them to make use of our results. We will engage with firms shown to be selling products that do not meet their energy label claims, and we reserve the right to name them as a deterrent for others, something national authorities themselves do.

We are confident we can count on the backing of industry groups like CECED, whose head earlier this year called for better market surveillance. This will ensure a more level playing field to benefit the majority of firms complying with the law.

Campaign wins pledge from major CEO

The CEO of a major retailer with the worst results from our first round of check tests visited our campaign staff in Germany. The retail giant, with annual sales of more than €2 billion, wanted to explain their plans for improvement – welcome news for consumers and the campaign. MarketWatch policy is to follow-up where bad results are found, so we look forward to verifying a better situation in the stores. In other news, the campaign recently visited the Hesse region market surveillance authority to share our testing approach and get advice.

Court gives €250,000 warning over online labelling

Our German campaign reported yet another legal victory by one of its members against an online retailer that was failing to display energy label information properly. The case was brought by regional consumer advice centre Verbraucherzentrale Rheinland-Pfalz against German furniture giant Innova Handelshaus AG. The higher court of Mainz ruled on 30 April that where a product is displayed, so should the efficiency class. The energy class had previously been missing. The court ordered the company to display the efficiency class, where applicable, throughout the online shop; pay the costs of litigation; and warned that it could be fined up to €250,000 for any future offence. For more information, click here.

Guidance for TV retailers

A sister project, ComplianTV, has just published guidance for retailers on how to correctly display energy labels, in stores and online. Now available in English, it will be complemented by French, German and Czech soon. MarketWatch’s first round survey revealed a mixed picture for TVs.

TVs

The product group claimed  the highest share of correctly labelled units (62%) but also a rather high share of missing labels (16%). Format issues were the primary problem with in-house printed labels and, specifically for TVs, a hard on/off box without the tick on the original label, which is not appropriate.

Call to tender – laboratories

MarketWatch will be putting 20 household appliances through rigorous lab tests to verify whether their energy labels stand up to scrutiny. The campaign is surveying labs throughout Europe to ensure the most appropriate is chosen to test any given product group, and then engaging one or more in product testing. The survey and call to tender documents are available here.