An agreement on draft legislation of energy labels for household appliances was reached by the European Parliament and the Council of the Ministers on Tuesday (21 March).
Refrigerators, televisions, dishwashers and other devices will transition from A+++ to G ratings back to the basic A to G scale. The shift will create transparency in the energy efficiency of the appliances, push less effective products out of the market and reduce energy costs, according to the Council.
The Energy Labelling Directive was first adopted in the mid-1990s. In 2008 it was expanded to include household appliances and has been revised several times since.
Several organisations remarked that the previous ‘+’ system confused consumers because it was misleading.
An appliance ranked as an “A” on the A+++ to G scale would have been classified as a “D” on the original scale, meaning it was not very efficient, but it was still able to acquire the A rating on the ‘+’ scale.
The change will also contribute to the achievement of the EU’s 2020 and 2030 energy efficiency targets, the Council said.
“The new labels A to G will be much clearer and make it easier for consumers to make energy smart decisions. Thanks to the new energy labelling, households could save hundreds of euros in energy bills every year,” said German SPD lawmaker Martina Werner, the S&D spokesperson on energy efficiency labelling.
The directive, according to the BEUC, has been a successful instrument throughout the years. But, the consumer organisation said that the tool lost its clarity when it introduced the “A+” classes.
“It is good that the three EU institutions struck a deal on the EU Energy label. This means that the easy-to-understand A-G label will come back in stores and replace the misleading ‘+’ labels. Such a move will for sure help consumers choose the most energy-efficient appliances and save money,” said Sylvia Maurer, the BEUC’s director of sustainability and safety.
“However, we had called for a quicker rescaling of all products, especially for space and water heaters,” she added.
Consumers will have to wait a while before they see the new labels in stores, as the deadline for implementation is about six years.
The revised directive also includes a new database system, which will focus on user friendliness and practical purposes, according to the Council. It will also display all products that carry the EU Energy label.
“One great new feature is the setup of an online database displaying all product models which have to carry an EU Energy Label. This will increase transparency for consumers and help them choose products that serve their needs.
“However, it is a pity the future database will not disclose information about models that market surveillance authorities have found to be non-compliant with the legislation,” Maurer said.
Ashley Fox, a Tory MEP and industry spokesman for the European Conservatives and Reformists, added that the database will keep authorities accountable.
“The introduction of a product database will help market surveillance authorities ensure that products are delivering the efficiency they say they will. We have seen in the motor industry how abuses can undermine legislation and ultimately consumer confidence,” the British lawmaker said.
The directive must get approval from the Committee of Permanent Representatives in the European Union (Coreper). The Coreper chairman will then send a letter to the head of the European Parliament’s ITRE Committee.
That letter will indicate that, if the Parliament adopts at its plenary session the compromise text as approved by the Coreper, the Council will adopt the text in first reading without amendments.
The most popular appliances will be the first re-classified to the new A to G scale, with products purchased less frequently following later, such as heating systems.
Martina Werner, S&D spokesperson on energy efficiency labelling and MEP said, “85% of consumers check the energy efficiency labels before buying a product. Having the best performing products in the A + to A+++ category was misleading consumers into believing that the least performing product was actually good.
“Energy labelling has caught up with technological progress. In addition to the paper labels, there will be a public database giving consumers a better tool to compare the energy efficiency of products.”
Herbert Reul, the MEP in charge of the energy labelling reform for the EPP Group, said, ”It is a positive move to abolish the present categories where almost all fridges, washing machines or TVs have made it into either the A+++ or the A++ classes. The balanced reform will make sure that a popular system can be successfully maintained.”