Specifications regarding the energy consumption of empty vacuum cleaners do not infringe competition law. That was the decision of the General Court of the European Union (EGC) in its ruling of November 11 (Az.: T-544/13).
GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: Information on energy consumption is mandatory in the case of many electronic appliances. Energy labelling has been compulsory for just over a year now for all vacuum cleaners sold within the EU. These specifications are supposed to provide consumers with information concerning the energy consumption and cleaning performance of appliances when empty.
A producer of bagless vacuum cleaners considered itself to be at a disadvantage in the context of this test vis-à-vis vacuums cleaners equipped with bags. The manufacturer therefore requested that the EGC declare the regulation void. The producer of bagless vacuums took the view that consumers were being misled with respect to energy consumption and performance, as the tests were only being carried out on empty containers and performance deteriorates when the container is full.
However, the General Court of the European Union completely rejected the claim. It did not consider the test procedure to be misleading to consumers, because there were no reliable and reproducible tests with a full bag. The Court noted that not even the plaintiff had been able to demonstrate this. It went on to say that even if there are differences between vacuum cleaners with and without bags, the regulation does not infringe the principle of equal treatment. The Court held that the test procedure used allows consumers to choose a product based on reliable and standardised information.
Performance and energy efficiency specifications are essential information for consumers that can influence purchasing decisions. If consumers are misled by this type of information, this can have profound consequences for the companies affected. Infringements of competition law and the German Gesetz gegen den unlauteren Wettbewerb (Unfair Competition Act) can result in severe penalties, such as formal warnings, damages claims and injunctions.
Companies can turn to lawyers who are competent in the field of competition law to enforce and fend off these kinds of legal actions.