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Tidying up the facts on EU vacuum cleaner rules

August 22nd, 2014

Without reiterating all the points we made on our blog a year ago (we sometimes like a punning headline ourselves), here are ten key facts on the new EU rules coming into force on 1 September to make vacuum cleaners work better and waste less energy.

1) There is NO ban on vacuum cleaners that suck powerfully. The ban is on cleaners that use too much energy and/or are not energy efficient. The new rules include requirements for performance in picking up dust, on noise, on the amount of dust escaping from the cleaner (important for asthma sufferers) and on the durability of components.

2) It is perfectly possible to have high-performance vacuum cleaners which are energy efficient. As “Which?” magazine (see below) itself makes clear, some of the models on its best buy list already conform to the new rules.

3) Obviously more energy efficient appliances are good for consumers, who will have reduced energy bills and in this case quieter vacuum cleaners into the bargain. The new labelling system will help them make informed choices.

4) The new rules are based on a tried and tested approach which has already delivered results for all sorts of other appliances and made life easier and cheaper for consumers. A similar labelling system was introduced for fridges and freezers 20 years ago. They now use only one-third of the electricity they did then. Two years after regulations were introduced for television sets, 70% of those on the market were in the top class for energy efficiency.

5) Markets alone won’t make improvements in energy efficiency happen, at least not quickly. Innovation often needs to be given a push. Business wants certainty over the rules and to be sure that competitors will not be able to steal a short-term advantage by continuing to produce and market inefficient appliances.

6) The above might be one reason why most vacuum cleaner manufacturers supported the new rules when the industry was (extensively) consulted. The UK government also supported the rules- Member States could have blocked them had they wished

7) Lower household energy use also means lower emissions, helps tackle climate change and is a contribution to Europe being less dependent on energy imported from Russia and the Middle East.

8) As we pointed out last year, studies have shown that more efficient vacuum cleaners would save 19 terawatt hours (TWh) of energy annually in the EU by 2020. As a comparison, that amount of energy would keep the London Underground running for up to twenty years.

9) The system for vacuum cleaners will not be “self-regulating” as “Which?” claimed and other media repeated: national authorities will check that labels correspond to reality.

10) Given that the EU labelling system is not rating overall performance but only one aspect of it – energy efficiency – it is not surprising that EU ratings do not give the same results as “Which?’s” more general ones.


New EU rules on vacuum cleaners coming into force on 1 September will mean that “consumers will get better vacuum cleaners” and less energy will be wasted.

That is how Commission energy spokesperson Marlene Holzner succinctly put it.

But certain UK newspapers like little more than stories which allow them to attack the EU and the “green lobby” while also providing good punning opportunities for headlines.

Small wonder then that they have leapt on the chance to recycle stories published when the rules were agreed and to lambast “Brussels” again.

“Which?” consumer magazine flagged up some concerns, as it is of course entitled to do.

The Daily Telegraph picked this up first and wrote a balanced piece with extensive quotes from Ms Holzner.

Then a frenzy ensued.

“EU suckers…EU rules that really suck” screamed anew various recycled headlines.

An editorial in the Sun suggested that readers should buy a new energy inefficient vacuum cleaner, perhaps costing several hundred pounds, before they are banned.

The Daily Mirror said: “a barmy EU ban on powerful vacuum cleaners could lead to panic buying, watchdogs warned”. If it does – hard perhaps to imagine mobs of desperate buyers fighting over the last few energy guzzling vacuum cleaners in the shop – that will be because of hysterical media reports.

The Mirror followed up with the full gamut of clichés – “Brussels busybodies…green dictat (sic), etc”.

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Please note that all statements in all entries were correct on the date of publication given. However, older archived posts are not systematically updated in the light of later developments, for example changes to EU law.

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