Consumers in dark as light bulb phase-out continues

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As the EU's phase-out of energy-guzzling light bulbs prepares to move into a second phase in September, consumer organisations are calling for an education campaign and a better disposal system. 

Consumer advocates fear high-tech terminology could be lost on consumers, leading to confusion as new product information requirements enter into force.

In 2009, the introduction new EU energy efficiency standards for light bulbs began the phase-out of traditional incandescent light bulbs, starting with 100 watt bulbs (EURACTIV 19/03/10). This year, on 1 September, all 75 watt inefficient bulbs will gradually disappear from shop shelves as retailers will still be allowed to sell their existing stock.

The legislation will remove all inefficient incandescent and halogen light bulbs from the market and replace them with more efficient alternatives, such as improved incandescent bulbs with halogen technology or compact fluorescent lamps (CFL), for instance.

The European Commission estimated that more energy-efficient lamps will save an average household somewhere between €25 and €50 per year, taking into account the higher purchase price of the product.

Product information will also become mandatory on packaging as of September. Manufacturers will be required to print product information such as lifetime in hours, how many times the light bulb can be switched on and off, or warm-up time for the benefit of consumers.

European consumers' organisation BEUC welcomed the continued efforts to help consumers make the switch to energy-saving lights. But it stressed that further efforts will be required to ensure that citizens can make educated choices according to reliable information.

"Both consumers and the environment will benefit from an increased usage of energy-saving light bulbs. However, as consumers are unfamiliar with terms such as Kelvin values or luminous flux, they can only take full advantage of this measure if they are helped to make informed choices based on reliable product information," said BEUC Director-General Monique Goyens.

The organisation also called for a better disposal system for fluorescent bulbs, expressing concerns about their mercury content. It argued that the mercury threshold could be lowered from the current 5mg to only 1-2mg with top notch technology.

Opponents of the phase-out have consistently pointed to higher contents of poisonous mercury than in traditional bulbs. But some studies have argued that the net emissions of mercury are in fact lower with CFLs than traditional light bulbs, as they reduce energy demand and consequently the amount of mercury released by power plants burning coal. 

  • European Consumers' Organisation (BEUC):Homepage

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