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Many confused by new energy label scheme

Which? urges MEPs to reject proposed energy label

New refrigeration energy labelling scheme

EU energy label (author: European Commission)

Proposed changes to the current energy efficiency labels found on household products will confuse British consumers, according to new research from Which?.

Our survey revealed that 86% of British consumers find the widely used A-G energy label easy to understand. But the European Commission is proposing to replace it with a system that 37% of consumers find hard to work out.

Under the current energy efficiency labelling scheme, products are rated between A and G. The proposed system, however, would work by combining letters and negative (minus) percentages for A ratings, and would see fridges or freezers rated as A-20%, A-40% or A-60%, for example, if they were more efficient than an A-rated product.

Which? independently tests including fridge freezers, fridges, freezers, televisions, dishwashers, , washing machines and washer dryers for energy consumption.

Energy efficiency labelling

Which?’s survey of more than 1,000 adults aged between 16 and 64 shows that the majority of British consumers prefer the A-G energy label and that 93% find it useful for comparing the energy efficiency of different products.

Replacing the current A-G system with the A-40% type label would confuse people and make it harder for them to compare energy efficiency ratings of different goods.

Which? is calling for MEPs to support the current energy labelling scheme, and believes that regularly updating it instead would make more sense for consumers – as well as helping to incentivise companies to strive to improve the energy efficiency of the products they manufacture.


Michelle Smyth, public affairs manager at Which?, says: ‘It’s madness to replace a system that has worked perfectly well for 15 years with one that people find confusing.

‘Our research backs up what we knew already – that the A-G energy label is the easiest to understand and is the preferred format for the majority of consumers.

‘The European Commission should stop beating around the bush and make the A-G label the standard design across all products.’


The proposed new energy label has already been debated at EU level, but hit a stumbling block in May 2009 when the European Parliament voted to reject the new label for televisions, but accepted it for fridges, freezers and fridge freezers. 

The situation has been further complicated by an amendment to the EU’s energy labelling directive which contradicts plans for a new labelling scheme. As a result of this, all changes to the scheme are on hold until the Commission carries out more research – but a leaked version of its findings, which allegedly concludes that consumers back the new A-40% scheme, has been described by Fiona Hall, leader of the UK Liberal Democrat MEPs as ‘a blatant distortion’ of public opinion.

Ms Hall said: ‘The commission is playing fast and loose on energy labelling. Current labelling is consistent, familiar and easy to understand; the alternatives are complex and confusing.

‘That’s what Which? has found, that’s what I’m told by my constituents and that’s why the European Parliament has already voted against the commission’s labelling proposals.’

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