Energy labelling rules for fridges and freezers

Regulations giving effect to the first of a series of EC Directives requiring standardised information about the energy consumption of household appliances to be made available to prospective purchasers will come into force throughout the UK on 1 January.1

The regulations apply to mains-operated refrigerators, freezers and frozen food storage cabinets and their combinations supplied after 1 January. These are covered by an EC Directive adopted earlier this year (ENDS Report 230, p 42 ) as the first in a series of measures under a 1992 "parent" Directive on energy labelling. The legislation is part of the EC's SAVE programme to promote energy efficiency and reduce emissions of carbon dioxide.

The regulations oblige appliance manufacturers to provide standard labels and information notices to retailers and other dealers. Dealers must attach a label to any appliance placed on display, and in other cases make the information notice available to prospective purchasers. Similar information must be provided where appliances are advertised in mail order catalogues and similar communications.

The crucial information provided in labels and notices will be the energy efficiency rating of the appliance relative to that of competing products. The rating must be displayed in the form of a seven-point scale to make such comparisons easy for consumers, as well as in absolute terms. According to the Department of the Environment, if consumers chose the most efficient appliances, electricity savings worth over £400 million per year could be achieved once all existing appliances had been replaced.

Suppliers will be responsible for the accuracy of the information provided in labels and notices. They will also be obliged to have technical documentation enabling local weights and measures authorities to verify claims made in labels and notices. Failure to comply with the regulations will be a criminal offence punishable by a fine of up to £5,000.

A large chunk of the regulations deals with offences, defences and enforcement. The provisions are so lengthy partly because new enforcement arrangements created by the Deregulation and Contracting Out Act 1994 have been imported into the regulations. These entitle anyone asked to take remedial action to request that this be formalised in an enforcement notice, and to make written or oral representations when notified of enforcement action which an authority proposes to take. The authority will be obliged to consider any such representations in taking its final decision (ENDS Report 237, pp 27-28 ).

The regulations also require the Secretary of State to report to Parliament at least every five years on how local authorities are carrying out their enforcement duties. He will be able to direct them to report to him for this purpose.

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