EU court annuls energy labels for vacuum cleaners

Energy labels for vacuum cleaners may soon disappear from shops across the EU following a row between UK manufacturer Dyson and the European Commission. Significant energy savings are at stake, experts warn.

The EU General Court repealed the energy labelling regulation for vacuum cleaners today following a long-standing dispute with UK manufacturer Dyson.

The regulation ranks home and professional appliances by giving them A to G energy efficiency labels, A being the most energy efficient. It was set up by the EU to help consumers choose the least wasteful products and cut energy bills.

But Dyson argues that the laboratory tests run to determine the efficiency of vacuum cleaners are flawed.

The company filed the complaints in 2013 arguing against the decision to test vacuum cleaners with empty dust bags – something that can give a machine a higher efficiency rating, but that does not reflect real-life conditions. It said that the laws discriminate against Dyson, which only produces bagless vacuum cleaners.

In these days of Dieselgate, it is essential consumers can trust what manufacturers say about their products. But the commission endorsed a measure that allowed Dyson competitors to game the system,” a spokesperson for the company said.

Campaigners said that scrapping the regulation altogether, which delivers significant benefits to consumers and the economy, is a bad idea. Chris Spiliotopoulos, a policy expert with ECOS, which has long campaigned for more efficient products, said:

“The Ecodesign and Energy Labelling regulations for vacuum cleaners are expected to save 19 terawatt hours (TWh) per year by 2020, equivalent to the electricity produced by 26 medium size coal power plants.”

However, Spiliotopoulos stresses that test methods need to better reflect the way products and consumers behave in real life.

“Policy-makers need to fix this imminently and harmonise a test method which takes into account real-life considerations,” he told META.

Stephane Arditi of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) agrees that energy labelling, alongside eco-design standards to produce more resource and energy efficient electronics, are desperately needed to achieve our climate targets.

“Perhaps this could be an opportunity to improve the labels and the way we conduct lab tests. But any amendments to the regulation must be approved as quickly as possible to ensure people can benefit from the projected savings”.  

When asked about the next steps, Arditi said that it’s unclear what will happen to the existing labels on the market. The European Commission is now expected to decide on whether to appeal to the court.


Policy in focus

A tag-team of European directives is transforming a score of domestic, commercial and industrial product groups sold in the European Union. The Ecodesign Directive gradually removes from the market the least efficient products by setting standards that demand a certain level of performance. Meanwhile, the Energy Labelling Directive pulls consumers towards the best products by giving them an impartial A to G ranking. Consumers make better buying choices and manufacturers are rewarded for innovation.


Read more about how vacuum cleaners are becoming more energy efficient: Dyson vc Bosch