Ecodesign and Energy Labelling: Benefits Reduced by Significant Delays and Non-compliance, Claims New Report
03 February 2020
On 20 January 2020, reference to a European Court of Auditors’ special report was published in the Official Journal, which notes that while EU rules on ecodesign and energy labelling have led to efficiency gains, their effectiveness was reduced by significant delays in the regulatory process and non-compliance by manufacturers and retailers. The Commission used sound and transparent methodologies to decide which products to regulate, so that the policy would have maximum impact. Yet, the auditors found that the process to establish product-specific regulations is lengthy, and the Commission could have avoided some delays.
As part of its fight against climate change, the EU has already committed to improving its energy efficiency by 20% by 2020 and 32.5% by 2030. To help achieve these targets, the European Union has taken measures focusing on greener product design and consumer information on energy consumption and environmental performance energy labelling: respectively, Directives on Ecodesign and on Energy labelling. Hong Kong sellers of electrical and electronic goods in particular will be familiar with these concepts and laws if selling to customers in the EU.
The auditors confirmed that the Commission has used sound and transparent methodologies to select the regulated products. This has resulted in the EU’s prioritising of over 30 product groups with the highest energy-savings potential. The table at the end of this report lists the product groups that are currently covered by measures.
The Commission’s most recent assessment on the progress made by Member States towards the energy efficiency targets shows that the EU 2020 target is unlikely to be met. In fact, energy consumption rose between 2014 and 2017. The Commission assessment (of 2018) suggests that key factors were economic growth, low oil prices, weather conditions, and the slow implementation of energy efficiency measures in some Member States. The assessment concludes that “there is a need to step up efforts not only to reach the 2020 targets but also to set the right basis for the subsequent decade when an even higher level of ambition will be required”.
The auditors’ report also states that the Commission’s decision to adopt measures as a package meant that product groups that are ready to be regulated are delayed even longer. This reduced the impact of the policy, as ecodesign requirements were likely to be outdated and energy labels no longer relevant to help consumers differentiate between the best and worst performing products.
Another point raised is that although the Commission regularly reports on the results of its ecodesign and energy labelling policy, some of the assumptions used are likely to have overestimated the impact of the policy. For instance, they do not consider non-compliance with the regulations, nor implementation delays. Moreover, the Ecodesign Impact Accounting (EIA) does not take into account the difference between theoretical consumption derived from harmonised standards and real-life energy consumption. For example, fridge-freezers are tested without opening the doors and with no food inside. There is therefore a risk that savings are overestimated, the auditors warn.
In EU Member States, market surveillance authorities (MSAs) are responsible for ensuring that products sold on their territory are compliant with energy labelling and ecodesign legislation. The Commission, however, plays an important role in facilitating cooperation between MSAs. The information and communication system on market surveillance is intended to help share inspection results, though some functional limitations reduce its effectiveness.
The Commission has also funded several projects over the last decade to strengthen surveillance of ecodesign and energy labelling. However, question-marks continue over whether these have really changed the way Member States perform their market surveillance duties. In practice, the number of product models tested in laboratories is considered by the auditors to be still relatively small. Overall, the Commission recently estimated that 10 to 25% of products sold do not comply with the EU law. The auditors conclude, in this respect, that non-compliance by manufacturers and retailers remains a significant issue.
In order to enhance the impact of the ecodesign and energy labelling policy for the period after 2020, the auditors have laid out a number of recommendations to the European Commission covering the following points:
- measures to speed up the regulatory process, for instance by adopting implementing measures when they are ready, rather than when a package is complete;
- improvements in the way the impact of the policy is measured and reported, by improving assumptions and using a methodology that measures actual energy consumption by end users; and
- action to facilitate information exchange between market surveillance authorities in Member States and to improve compliance with the policy. This should include improving relevant tools for Member States, disseminating best practices and providing training upon request.
As Hong Kong sellers of electrical goods may know, ecodesign measures and energy labels are complementary: the ecodesign legislation works by laying down energy efficiency and other requirements for product design, thereby improving environmental performance. Products that do not meet these requirements cannot be sold in the EU, thus removing the worst-performing products from the market. On the other hand, EU energy labels show how an appliance ranks on a scale from A to G according to its energy consumption. This allows consumers to make informed decisions.
Please click on the following to see the full Auditors’ Special Report.
The product groups that are currently covered by measures:
|14 product groups covered by Ecodesign and labelling requirements||11 product groups only covered by Ecodesign requirements|
- Electronics & Electrical Appliances