New energy label will ‘transform the way we shop’

EU consumers can expect significant energy savings and cheaper bills following the adoption of new EU energy label rules for TVs, fridges, washing machines and other products.

The European Commission adopted a new set of rules and a revamped look for the iconic EU energy label this week.

The green-to-red striped labels rank the energy use of home and commercial appliances.

The new EU energy label

The new labels will appear in shops from March 2021 and will initially apply to TVs and displays, fridges and freezers, washing machines and wash-dryers, dishwashers, and lighting products. Similar measures will be discussed for more products in the coming years.

Consumer, environmental and industry groups have all welcomed the reform, which they agree will make the labels more reliable, visible and impactful.

“It is a good step forward to reinforce Europe’s pioneering labelling scheme, which steers consumers towards the best products, cuts energy bills and boosts innovation,” said Chloé Fayole, a product policy expert with ECOS and the Coolproducts campaign.

The Coolproducts campaign said the new labels would “transform the way we shop and “significantly benefit consumers and the market“.

The main changes envisaged in the agreement include:

  • The reintroduction of the original A-G scale and removal of the confusing A+, A++ and A+++ levels;
  • The labels will appear on promotional material such as online ads and TV commercials; and
  • The registration of product information in an EU-wide database to help market surveillance authorities verify that products comply with energy efficiency requirements and that the information on the label is accurate.

The EU energy label is widely regarded as one of Europe’s success stories. The Commission estimations value the total accumulated energy savings of these new labels by 2030 at 38,1 TWh a year, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of Hungary.

As Paolo Falcioni, the director of the European association for home appliances (APPLiA), said in a statement:

“For nearly 30 years, the energy label has been helping Europeans to take the right decision when choosing their appliance. In parallel, the industry has been inspired to create more innovative and environmental products, in addition to stimulate competition among manufactures.”

But despite the wide-spread benefits, not everyone is happy. In November last year, industrialist James Dyson won a court case against the Commission which led to the annulment of the existing labels for vacuum cleaners.

The company argued 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.

 “Scrapping the labels altogether, even if temporarily, is only going to hurt consumers and the industry,” according to Stephane Arditi, a policy manager with the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). He told META:

“Test methods must certainly improve to better reflect real-life conditions while ensuring repeatability and comparability. But tests will never be 100 percent representative of all situations and this cannot be an excuse for companies to sue our institutions and attack standards that are put in place to benefit people and protect the planet.”

Asked whether more could be done to improve the labels, Arditi said that products should also be ranked according to their level or repairability and durability, especially smartphones and computers that tend to break and become obsolete too easily.

He also said that the new development of the new database will pave the way for new digital tools and apps, such as the existing PocketWatt, which helps consumers compare the running costs and energy efficiency of different appliances by gathering information available on the energy labels and delivering it to consumers’ smartphones.