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10th Dec 2023

EU scraps A+ energy labels, years after being told it was a bad idea

  • The A+ labels were criticised from the very start (Photo: Vilseskogen)

The European Commission is proposing to reform the EU’s energy labelling system after it emerged that the current system confuses customers.

The system allows products to be rated for energy efficiency using a scale of letters as well as a green-to-red colour code.

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  • The energy label from 2010 that the commission now wants to repeal (Photo: European Commission)

But the commission admitted earlier this month that the scheme had become less effective since the A-to-G scale was expanded to include A+, A++ and A+++ classifications, with the last being the most environment friendly.

It is proposing a return to the simple A-to-G scale because consumers do not perceive products in the A + category as being much more efficient so are less willing to pay a higher price.

“People know that an A-class refrigerator is good. They don't know what those pluses are for,” Lorenzo van 't Hoff, a kitchen seller in Amsterdam, told this website.

But the confusion had already been predicted in 2008, when European lawmakers approved the new system in the face of warnings by consumer organisations and green groups.

The plus system was added after business groups successfully argued that there should be a way for producers to put more efficient products on the market without having to rescale the energy label.

In November 2009, governments negotiated the proposal with the European Parliament. Sweden, holding the rotating EU presidency, proposed that three additional classes (A+, A++, and A+++) be added.

The parliament had earlier voted to keep a fixed A-G scale, but accepted the Swedish proposal.

The decision was met with criticism from consumer organisations and environmental organisations.

Consumer organisations argued that the EU “should not introduce a change to something that has proven to work”, noting that 'buy A' had become a familiar slogan.

“It devalues the difference between the better energy efficiency performers - equivalent to replacing Olympic gold, silver and bronze medals with gold+, gold++ and gold+++”, said Green MEP Satu Hassi, from Finland.

Almost six years after those warnings, the commission has now come to the same conclusion.

“In order to make it easier for consumers to understand and compare products, the European Commission is suggesting to have one single 'A to G' energy label”, it said earlier in July.

This was an almost perfect echo of the argument for introducing the A+ scheme in 2010, which was hailed at the time as “easy to understand for consumers”.

EU envisages soft touch Energy Union

According to an internal document, the commission is floating monitoring and reporting instruments, but no strict measures to police proposed new rules.

EU fixes own mistake on 'confusing' energy labels

UPDATED: MEPs approved a new system to inform consumers about the energy efficiency of products. The most important change is abolishing the most recent change to a scale that goes up to A+++.

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