Given the complexity of energy labels, the European Commission adopted on 11 March a new energy efficiency labels, making them more understandable for consumers and help them make better-informed purchasing choices. The new labels cover dishwashers, washing machines and washer-dryers, refrigerators, lamps, electronic displays including televisions, and refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function.

“Energy efficiency first” is a central principle of the Energy Union strategy. In 2017, the European Union agreed clearer energy efficiency labelling rules, by moving from the current A+++ to G scale to an A to G energy scale, which is simpler and well understood by consumers. A product showing an A+++ energy efficiency class could, for example, become a B class after rescaling, without any change in its energy consumption. This will allow the top classes to have room for more energy efficient models.

After a consultation process following the 2017 agreement, the Commission on 11 March adopted the final format and visual identity of new labels for six product groups: five product groups of household appliances with “rescaled” labels well known by European consumers: dishwashers; washing machines and washer-dryers; refrigerators, including wine storage fridges; lamps; electronic displays including televisions.

According to the Commission, the new labelling product group for refrigerating appliances with a direct sales function used in shops and vending machines.

These new labels will be visible for European consumers in physical stores and online as of 1 March 2021.

A new element in these labels is a QR code with which consumers will be able to get additional, official (non-commercial) information by scanning the code with a common smartphone, the Commission said, adding that data is being inserted by manufacturers into the EPREL EU database which will become available to any European citizen in the next few months.

According to Commission estimations, the total final accumulated energy savings of these new labels by 2030 are valued at 38.1 TWh/year, equivalent to the annual electricity consumption of Hungary, constituting an important contribution to the EU’s energy and climate targets and supporting the implementation of the circular economy.

“We are pleased that the EU is finally fixing the flaws of the current energy label, starting with five products that most consumers own at home,” European Consumer Association BEUC Director General Monique Goyens said. “It was high time we went back to the unambiguous A-G label to drive consumers to buy less energy-guzzling washing machines or fridges and save money,” he said.

For his part, European home industry appliance association APPLiA Director General Paolo Falcionireminded that for nearly 30 years, the energy label has been helping Europeans to take the right decision when choosing their appliance. “In parallel, the industry has been inspired to create more innovative and environmental products, in addition, to stimulate competition among manufacturers. In a moment when establishing a Circular Culture has become a necessity, policymakers must ensure that the label continues to deliver and be trusted. We need impactful communication on the upcoming change, in particular, to avoid that a project made to better inform consumers results in confusing them,” he said.

Finally, Chloé Fayole of the Coolproducts campaign, led by European Environmental Citizens Organization (ECOS) and the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) hailed these decisions, noting that the energy labels will become more impactful, more visible, and more reliable. “It is a good step forward to reinforce Europe’s pioneering labelling scheme, which steers consumers towards the best products, cuts energy bills and boosts innovation,” she said.

Following the adoption on 11 March by the Commission of the Delegated Acts that describe the new labels, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers have, during a two-month period, a right to express an objection, after which, if none are received, the texts will be published in the Official Journal of the European Union. The new labels will be launched in stores and online throughout Europe as of 1 March 2021.