22nd Jan 2021

Brussels to face lawsuit over green bulbs

  • A compact fluorescent bulb uses about a tenth of the energy of traditional light bulbs (Photo: EUobserver)

Just as EU ministers are due to rubber stamp the extension of tariffs on Chinese exports of energy-efficient bulbs at their meeting in Luxembourg on Monday (15 October), a major Italian lighting firm is planning to challenge the decision at the European courts.

The European Commission proposed in late August that the union's existing anti-dumping measure against Chinese bulbs - which adds up to 66 percent on their price - should expire in a year, rather than straight away as previously favoured by trade commissioner Peter Mandelson.

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But Italian bulbs producer Targetti, which has factories in China, will contest the move.

"A positive outcome in the case would have far-reaching implications for the EU," Targetti Sankey's lawyer Maurizio Gambardella was quoted as saying by Reuters about the company's plan to file a lawsuit against the European Commission.

"On the one hand, the new regulation for extending the duties would be declared void. On the other, all importers would be able to claim back from the EU hundreds of millions of euros in duties paid since 2001," he added.

Brussels argued that "overall community interest" justified providing a sufficient transition period for European producers to prepare for a total drop of tariffs.

The anti dumping tariffs in place since 2002 have been set so as to protect EU light bulb producers from the import and sale of Chinese bulbs on the EU market at below-cost price.

But critics maintain that the commission's move is aimed at protecting only one European producer – Germany's Osram which has no production in China and which fears job losses.

Targetti – which manufactures energy-saving bulbs in China - wants to file a challenge not only against the latest EU move but also the original decision by the commission in 2001 to introduce the anti-dumping action.

The August decision on light bulbs was criticised as being hypocritical following the ambitious green targets the EU set itself earlier this year.

A much publicised part of this strategy was the phasing out of high-energy traditional light bulbs to be replaced with energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs.

Brussels' anti dumping measures make cheap energy-saving Chinese bulbs more expensive.

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