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Electrical and Electronic Products' Labelling Needs A Revamp: Stop Misleading!

DATE: 01st JULY 2012 (SUNDAY)


Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER) has conducted stakeholder engagement with industry, government agencies and members of public to get more understanding of the problems related to labelling and feedback to solutions proposed by AWER. Many site visits were also done to study the products in the retailing sector and collect samples of various labels. This study is a part of Sustainable Production and Consumption Project funded by British High Commission, Kuala Lumpur and the UK Government.

Problems with Products' Labelling

Products' labels are designed to give summary of important information to the customer about a particular product and its accreditations. More than often, labels always end up as a decorative or secretive element in a product. There are 3 core problems associated with labels.

Problem 1: Location of labels

Some of the products' labels such as freezers, microwave oven, washing machine and television are located at the bottom (base) of the product or back of the product. This makes it difficult for consumer's access.

Problem 2: Misleading and confusing information on the labels

Based on our site visits and public consultations, different types of symbols on labels tend to mislead and confuse consumers. The use of Output Power value which is not the actual electricity consumption and usage of false energy efficiency rating labels also mislead the consumers. Based on our discussion with some of the sales personnel only revealed that they are not sure of the products' accreditations and only rely on the assurance given by the suppliers that the products are of good quality and certified.

Problem 3: Enforcement

Enforcement is the key element for proper implementation of rules, regulations, standards and the law itself. This is because unscrupulous businesses always find new and innovative ways to bend the rules, regulations, standards and law that is imposed. This is made worst when the regulator in-charge does not carry out enforcement properly. Currently, Energy Commission selectively regulates certain electrical and electronic products and the rest fall under the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism (KPDNKK). This is contradicting with the Energy Commission Act and Electricity Supply Act which gives power to the commission to regulate all products that consumes electricity. KPDNKK is overwhelmed with all types and shapes of consumers' products. They are also hoping Energy Commission will regulate all electricity consuming equipments directly as they are not the field experts.

Recommendations from AWER

Due to the 3 core problems stated above, a consumer may end up wrongly purchasing a product such as non-energy efficient product or fake product. This will cost them a lot in their monthly electricity bills. Based on public response during our consultations with them, we are certain that implementation of our recommendations can assist the consumers to choose an energy efficient product while reducing their electricity cost as well as its equivalent carbon footprint.

Recommendation 1: Standard Labelling and Energy Efficiency Star Rating Labelling for Electrical and Electronic Products

Electrical and electronic products always come with various information printed on the labels that does not assist consumers to identify right information. Based on our consultations with stakeholders on AWER's model label for electrical and electronic products, we have received a very good response from members of public. While more information can be added in, the basic information that should be printed on a label must be made mandatory and enforced by Energy Commission. AWER's model labels are divided into 3 categories:
(i) Product label with MEPS and Energy Efficiency Star rating imposed
(ii) Product label with MEPS imposed
(iii) Normal Product's label

The recommendations will be forwarded to Energy Commission for implementation.

Recommendation 2: Stop Usage of Energy Efficiency Endorsement Label

Based on our consultation with members of public that has different education and working background, the Energy Efficiency Star Rating label is sufficient to assist them to identify energy efficient products. The endorsement label is seen as confusing logo only. AWER urges the Energy Commission to stop the usage of endorsement label in electrical appliances.

Recommendation 3: Products' Testing from Accredited Regional Testing Laboratories

While Energy Commission informs AWER that product testing can be done via any accredited regional testing laboratories recognised by Department of Standards Malaysia (Standards Malaysia), the manufacturers and retailers do not echo the same information. Almost all of the industry players we have met raised constraints that they faced with SIRIM. On the other hand, SIRIM has also admitted that the problems are due to its financial constraints. Therefore, Energy Commission must make an official statement on this matter as well as develop and publish a guideline for product testing mechanism.

Recommendation 4: Minimum Energy Performance Standard (MEPS) For More Products

AWER suggests MEPS setting process to be carried out as following:
(i) Public consultation for MEPS setting must be carried out;
(ii) Conduct international benchmarking of products and its energy efficiency rating to ensure MEPS is not set too low or too high;
(iii) Once the MEPS setting process is completed, a 6 month notice must be made and announced;
(iv) Once a 6 month notice has been served to the industry players, they must not be allowed to import or produce products that are below the MEPS standard and they have to clear all their existing stocks within the 6 months.

Besides this, MEPS needs a mandatory review period of a maximum 5 years.

Recommendation 5: Mandatory and Voluntary Energy Efficiency Star Rating Labelling

Products that have voluntary energy efficiency star rating labelling implemented now must be upgraded to a mandatory labelling with revised energy efficiency rating requirements and MEPS. Energy Commission must implement this recommendation by 1st January 2013 for the benefit of the people.

Introduction of an energy efficiency star rating labelling scheme for a new product must begin with voluntary labelling for a 12 months period. After that, it can be upgraded to mandatory labelling.

Recommendation 6: Online Database for Approved Products

Energy Commission must compile and update an online database for the products that have obtained energy efficiency star ratings and MEPS for all stakeholders to do a cross reference. The online database must also keep the details of products that has been disqualified, recalled or banned due to any technical or regulatory reasons. This would assist consumers to identify misleading or fake products. This online database system will be an added advantage for Energy Commission to carry out enforcement as well. Public would also be able to launch complaints directly to the commission if there is any irregularities detected.

In conclusion, labelling revamp for energy consuming products is vital. As a responsible regulator, Energy Commission is duty bound to rectify all the labelling problems. If not, they will be labelled as "INEFFECTIVE" agency.

Piarapakaran  S.
Association of Water and Energy Research Malaysia (AWER)

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