Light bulbs eco label misused, green NGO claims

6599292669_fff6e773ff_z.jpg [John Loo/ Flickr]

“Eco” branded light bulbs are not as energy efficient as advertised in stores across the EU, an investigation conducted by environmental group Coolproducts has found.

Following a survey of shops in Belgium, UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain, Coolproducts revealed that halogen bulbs branded as “eco” consume in fact ten times more energy than for instance, the latest LED lamps.  

The eco label, as defined by the European Commission, is meant to represent products with a reduced environmental impact compared with other products in the same product group.

But companies, such as Philips and Osram, label the majority of halogen bulbs as “eco” when in fact they fall under the category C or D, one of the lowest energy efficiency classes.

“Whether greenwash or consumer manipulation, the effect is the same: people think they are getting energy savers, when in fact they are buying the worst bulbs on the market,” said Stephane Arditi from Coolproducts.

A Philips representative told EURACTIV that all products come with all the necessary information on the package so that “consumers can make an informed decision when purchasing a Philips light bulb”.

Osram, referring to the use of “eco” on the label, said that “ECO could be seen as an abbreviation as well for ECOnomy, as well as ECOlogy”.

“Halogen lamps run, for example, without mercury. They can be disposed in household waste and do not contain electronic components and therefore do not emit electronic magnetic fields,” a representative of Osram said.

But Coolproducts is now considering taking legal action against the companies that mislead consumers into buying light bulbs branded as energy savers. It has already launched a complaint in France and Denmark, and it plans to do the same in Germany.

Traditional light bulbs must go

Inefficiency of certain types of halogen bulbs have been under the EU lawmakers’ radar for some time. The European Commission has been trying to gradually phase out old generation light bulbs with the adoption of the EU Ecodesign law in 2010.

D-class and C-class halogen lamps are supposed to be banned by 2016 in favour of less wasteful bulbs, like B-class or LED type lamps. The Commission, however, has proposed a delay in banning the less energy efficient lamps in order to give the industry time to develop practical alternatives.  

Environmental campaigners, such as the European Environmental Bureau, however disagree with the delay, suggesting that the industry has been meddling with the Commission’s initial plan.

Lighting Europe, representing lighting manufacturers, said that it supports a switch to more energy efficient lighting solutions. But introducing a ban earlier than 2020 would be “confusing, costly, and inconvenient to European Union consumers,” said Diederik de Stoppelaar, Lighting Europe’s Secretary General.

“It is the consumers who will lose out,” he added.

The European Union's Ecodesign Directive introduced a framework to set mandatory ecological requirements for energy-using and energy-related products sold in the 27 member states.

Currently the scope covers more than 40 product groups, including boilers, lightbulbs and fridges that are responsible for 40% of the EU greenhouse gas emissions.

The aim of the directive is that manufactures of the energy-using products should, at the design stage, be obliged to reduce the energy consumption and other environmental impacts of products.

  • 2015: revision of the Energy Labelling Directive

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