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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A wave of class action lawsuits has been launched against manufacturers in the US after their products were found to be less efficient than claimed under America’s highly popular Energy Star label. Such legal action is seen as a healthy form of civic enforcement and a vital extra to government intervention, according to American consumer advocates. Problems with goods often come from changes to components or quality of materials that impact energy performance. Such was the case in a recent UK example. LG, Samsung and Whirlpool have faced class-action suits over products that fell out of compliance. Now, two Congressmen with interests in the issue have sponsored a bill to ban class actions if the authorities managed to procure a remedy. This is a rehash of a New York Times article.
Fridges that were less efficient than claimed on the box have been removed form the market. A single model made by Glen Dimplex Home Appliances was found to use on average 14.5% more energy than declared on its A+ energy label, a notch higher than it’s real performance. Over a thousand models entered the market before the UK National Measurement Office stepped in. An NMO statement says that Dimplex’s Middle Eastern supplier made changes without considering energy impact. The firm moved to head off the problem and made a voluntary donation to a green charity. For MarketWatch, this again shows the value of effective market surveillance. Honest firms can be selling models with unreal performance claims. Sadly, many national authorities are under-resourced, something pointed out in a recent report for the European Commission. For more information on the case, click here.
MarketWatch will soon purchase a number of white goods across Europe and put them through rigorous lab tests. Will their official energy labels stand up to scrutiny? We’ll see. Lab tests are long, time-consuming and expensive. So to help focus in on the most suspicious models, we are developing a screening procedure for use on the ground by civil society investigators. We need an expert review of this document to help ensure we really do knuckle down on the most suspicious models and deliver results that can be used by formal market surveillance authorities. The tender closes 23 July. For more details, click here.
Online retailers failing legal duty to supply correct energy information on household appliances
Brussels, 25 June 2014 – Retailers are failing a legal responsibility to systematically provide energy efficiency information to online shoppers looking for fridges, TVs and other domestic appliances, according to a survey by MarketWatch, an EU-backed campaign by consumer and environmental organisations.
The survey of 111 online retailers and 114 high street shops in 11 countries in late 2013 and early 2014  found that an average 62 percent of online products had missing or incorrect EU energy label information. The most common problem was information shown in the wrong order, risking consumer misunderstanding.
The survey comes hot on the heels of two court findings against Amazon and Ebay related to displaying EU energy labels online .
Announcing the findings at EU Sustainable Energy Week in Brussels, MarketWatch co-ordinator Frances Downy said: “It’s encouraging that most retailers seem to be displaying some energy performance information on products to help steer shoppers through a complicated area. The biggest hurdle now is missing or wrongly ordered information. The prizes for getting this right are switched-on consumers with lower energy bills and a society less dependent on unreliable and expensive fuel imports.”
High street retailers seem to be doing better, with an average of 12 percent of products with missing labels and a further 11 having incorrect labels – an improvement on findings from other studies in recent years. TVs and air conditioners were the most problematic products, most often because retailers did not attach a label, modified it, or put it in the wrong place. Refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines were most likely to be labelled correctly.
MarketWatch is working with retailers and will check up on their performance, as well as pass on its findings to national authorities empowered to take legal action under the Energy Labelling Directive. MarketWatch will extend its survey to other retailers in two further survey rounds. For more information visit www.market-watch.ngo