SWITZERLAND: A consumer guide supported by the European Commission has claimed that the majority of professional storage refrigerators fail to comply with mandatory energy labelling requirements.

Based on its own research, the Swiss-based topten.eu website claims that more than a year after the EU ecodesign and energy labelling requirements were applied to professional refrigerated storage cabinets 56% of models did not disclose the energy efficiency class of the product.

Energy Labelling Regulation EU 2015/1094 applies to professional refrigerators (refrigerated storage cabinets) – the type used in commercial catering establishments – sold from July 2016 onwards.

Topten visited the websites of 23 manufacturers. In September 2017, Topten assessed the product declarations of 1,914 models. The results were compared to similar data that was gathered by Topten in November 2016 where 747 models from 21 manufacturers were reviewed.

Data collected by Topten from manufacturers’ websites show that over half of the products on the market do not fulfil the mandatory declaration requirements. In 2016, 58% of assessed products did not declare the product’s energy efficiency class. Based on the provided product information, it was not possible to conclude what energy efficiency class the device belonged to as energy-related information was missing. Over a year after the introduction of the Energy Label still 56% of storage refrigeration models did not disclose the energy efficiency class of the product.

Topten calls on market surveillance authorities to enforce the mandatory declaration requirements in order for consumers to be able to make informed decisions.

“The present brief shows that the product declaration of the majority of storage refrigerators is noncompliant and that the intentions of the regulation are still not met more than a year after its entry into force,” it says in the report. “The publication of this brief is an opportunity for market surveillance authorities to kick-start product declaration compliance verifications and implement appropriate measures.”

Definition

Topten also identified what it describes as a “grey area” in the Regulation’s general definition of professional refrigerated storage cabinets.

According to Topten, the Regulation applies to “an insulated refrigerating appliance integrating one or more compartments accessible via one or more doors or drawers, capable of continuously maintaining the temperature of foodstuffs within prescribed limits at chilled or frozen operating temperature, using a vapour compression cycle, and intended for the storage of foodstuffs in non-household environments but not for the display to or access by customers”.

The consumer group argues that there are many cases where it was not clear if the product could be considered as fitting into the scope of a “storage refrigerator”. This was especially the case for appliances that have an additional “food processing” function and refrigerators with a glass door where in some cases it was not clear if they were display cabinets.

Appliances that are specifically designed for “food processing” are excluded from the scope of the Regulation but because the concept of “food processing” is not further defined, manufacturers may include basic functions like cooling foodstuffs such as dough, to prevent it from rising, or air humidification to prevent foodstuffs from drying. It is therefore difficult to assess the device’s main function.

A grey area in the scope definition additionally lies in the range of temperatures in which a storage refrigerator can operate. According to the definition the refrigerator shall maintain chilled/frozen temperatures. While frozen is clear (below 0°C), chilled is very relative, Topten argues.

In addition, some refrigerators can be digitally controlled to increase the temperature to allow the thawing process to start so that the contents are thawed and ready for the following day. Because cabinets specifically designed only for the purpose of thawing frozen foodstuffs in a controlled manner are explicitly exempt from the label, manufacturers of appliances that offer this function (for almost all appliances with a digital control) can decide whether they want this device to be for thawing only that include a feature where the contents can be frozen or chilled.

“The Regulation is clear that it does not intend to exempt these appliances, but this constitutes a loophole that can be easily exploited,” says Topten.

The report is available here.