The EU Regulatory Framework regarding labelling of energy-related products is set in the Energy Labelling Directive (92/75/EEC
). Under this framework, implementing Directives have been adopted for major household appliance groups including refrigerators and freezers, washing machines and dryers, ovens and lighting sources. The requirements are mandatory and common for all Member States and cover features such as energy consumption or use, noise and volume. The coloured “A to G” label, where A represents the most efficient products and G the least, is a familiar sight in European retail outlets and homes and serves to direct consumers to buy the best-performing products.
However, the label’s success has been such that the vast majority of products now fall within the A category, diminishing its meaning and usefulness. In 2009 new labelling requirements for certain product categories were agreed, as was the need for a more general recast of the Directive to bring it up-to-date.
Discussions on the Energy Label became drawn-out and controversial, because of fundamental disagreement over the layout. MEPs, backed by environmental and consumer NGOs, favoured a simple and periodic rescaling of the closed A to G format, as being the clearest, most comprehensible option. However industry and therefore certain Member States opposed this approach as it would mean certain less-performing products suddenly appeared less green.
After several months, in late November 2009 the European Parliament and Council reached a compromise agreement which is now due to be adopted by the Council in December, and the Parliament in January. NGOs are not happy with the agreement, which establishes the possibility of adding three classes above A (A+++). The Commission is supposed to issue a written statement which indicates that re-scaling will take place once a significant proportion of products reaches the two highest classes; but nevertheless, it still means the vast majority of products will remain in a category which includes an "A".