The European Commission tabled proposals yesterday (28 September) to introduce energy labels for televisions and update the existing labels for refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines.
Television manufacturers will for the first time have to clearly mark TV sets with a label declaring their energy efficiency and use it in advertisements if price if mentioned, according to the plans.
By contrast, the 'A to G' energy labels have been used for refrigerators, dishwashers and washing machines since 1992, but technological development has brought 90% of appliances sold in the EU up to the highest 'A' class.
As a result, the Commission is now proposing to scale up the scheme by adding three new classes, A+, A++ and A+++, in line with the revised Energy Labelling Directive agreed last year.
For televisions, the labelling would start from the closed 'A to G' scale, but the Commission is planning to add an 'A+' category for products around 30% more efficient than the current top class in 2014.
However, if manufacturers are able to start producing more efficient products earlier than that, new classes could be added without waiting for Brussels to start the legislative machinery.
Televisions take up nearly 10% of an average household's electricity bill, and the EU executive hopes to give manufacturers an incentive to design more energy-efficient products, as has happened with white goods.
The Commission last year attempted to introduce a different labelling scheme on TVs and fridges, which would have introduced additional 'A' classes in a different format. For instance, fridges may have been stamped with labels like 'A-20%', denoting an appliance that uses 20% less energy than a standard 'A' class one.
Despite being approved by member-state representatives, the new classes ran into resistance from MEPs, who argued they would confuse consumers. MEPs rejected the alternative labels for televisions but approved them for fridges and freezers, and the proposal was withdrawn.
The labels now being proposed will have to be approved by EU member states and the European Parliament. They could enter into force at the end of next year at the earliest if no objections are raised.
Responding to concerns that the measures would give manufacturers an excuse to increase prices, the Commission said that for TVs it is impossible to know whether price hikes are due to efficiency or other technical features.
"It is up to you as a consumer to decide what's on the market," said a Commission spokesperson.