Dyson scores European courts victory over vacuum cleaners energy labelling

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Dyson has won a battle with the European courts over energy labelling laws for vacuum cleaners after the General Court upheld its argument that efficiency tests carried out on empty machines do not reflect conditions as close as possible to real-life use.

The General Court ruling annuls the regulation on the energy labelling of vacuum cleaners, but the label will remain in force for a minimum of two months and 10 days to allow time for appeal.

Dyson said the ruling was “welcome news and a win for consumers across Europe”.

All vacuum cleaners sold in the EU have been subject to energy labelling requirements since September 2014, aimed at informing consumers about their efficiency based on testing that takes place when the machine is empty of dust.

But Dyson, best known for its bagless vacuum cleaner, has long argued that models using bags and filters to separate dust from the airflow can become clogged, often leading to loss of suction and meaning a consumer could buy an A-rated machine that drops to G-grade efficiency as it is used in the home.

The company’s legal action began in 2013 when it brought a case against the European Commission to the EU General Court arguing that, to reflect a consumer’s real-life experience of a product, performance must be tested in real-world conditions using dust.

In November 2015, the General Court dismissed Dyson’s claims and asserted that dust-loaded testing was not reliable or “reproducible” and therefore could not be adopted.

The court also ruled out Dyson’s claim that the current regulations “discriminate” in favour of bagged vacuum cleaners.

Dyson appealed over the judgment at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in January 2016, and in May last year the court upheld the appeal in part and sent the case back to the General Court for it to make a new assessment.

The ECJ backed the company’s claims that tests were available to measure a vacuum’s performance when full and said tests should “measure the performance of vacuum cleaners in conditions as close as possible to actual conditions of use”.

A Dyson spokeswoman said: “This is welcome news and a win for consumers across Europe. We have been arguing consistently that the Commission committed two legal violations to the detriment of European consumers and Dyson.

“The lab tests for the energy label do not reflect real use as EU law requires they must, and the EU label flagrantly discriminated against a specific technology – Dyson’s patented cyclone.

“This benefited traditional, predominantly German, manufacturers who lobbied senior Commission officials. Some manufacturers have actively exploited the regulation by using low motor power when in the test state, but then using technology to increase motor power automatically when the machine fills with dust – thus appearing more efficient.

“This defeat software allows them to circumvent the spirit of the regulation, which the European Court considers to be acceptable because it complies with the letter of the law.

“In these days of Dieselgate, it is essential consumers can trust what manufacturers say about their products. But the Commission endorsed a measure that allowed Dyson competitors to game the system.

“The legal process has been long, distracting and expensive, with the odds stacked against us. Most businesses simply do not have the resources to fight regulations of this nature. It is appalling that this illegal and fundamentally anti-competitive behaviour has been endorsed for so long.”

The decision is separate to a ruling by the ECJ in July that rejected Dyson’s claim that consumers should have information about the testing conditions behind vacuum cleaner energy classification labels.

The ECJ ruled that not providing customers with the information does not constitute a “misleading omission”.

Dyson launch new compact cleaners
Company founder Sir James Dyson with two compact Dyson vacuum cleaners (Dyson/PA)

The ECJ said rules did not permit additional information, including information relating to the test conditions, to be added to the energy efficiency label.

However, it also said that additional labels or the symbols displayed by BSH on the packaging of its vacuum cleaners “do not satisfy the requirements of the directive”.

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