Energy Star fraud

The Energy Star system is popular, both here in Australia and in the USA. People do trust it, but perhaps a little too much?

I’ve become a lot more conscious of power consumption in recent years, partly due to environmental issues, but also because of my tiny off-grid solar power system – every little bit of power consumption counts.

It hasn’t been enough for me to simply look at the Energy Star rating or endorsement, I need to know information about watts, amps etc. Even then I still have to trust the label the manufacturer affixes to the appliance is correct in what it states.

An Energy Star endorsement in the USA or a high star (on a scale of 1 – 5) Energy Star rating here in Australia can translate into big bucks in sales for the product’s manufacturer. Where there’s a buck to be made, fraud unfortunately invariably follows. That’s unfair to the consumer, unfair to companies trying to do the right thing and unfair to the environment.

It was recently revealed the U.S. Energy Star endorsement was granted to a number of bogus appliances, including a gasoline-powered alarm clock and an “air purifier” that was really an electric space heater with a feather duster stuck to it.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) was the culprit of the “fraud” and through the Energy Star self-certification program managed to obtain certifications for 15 bogus products during its investigation. Two of the bogus Energy Star firms concocted by GAO actually received real purchase requests from other companies because the bogus firms were listed as Energy Star partners.

While the powers that be behind Energy Star indicated there wasn’t any real fraud as the products didn’t exist, the Energy Department has recently pledged to strengthen the program.

In Australia, consumer electrical goods giant LG recently ran into trouble when consumer watchdog organization Choice found after testing a particular model of LG refrigerators, they needed 20 per cent more power to run than their advertised levels. LG says the situation was not deliberate. Two years ago, LG was whacked with a $3 million fine by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission for exaggerating the energy efficiency of its air conditioners.

I like the concept of our Energy Star rating system as it allows people to gauge at a glance the comparative energy efficiency between appliances; but this and the USA experience just goes to show nothing can be taken at face value these days when it comes to purchasing products. Where there are loopholes, some companies will seek to exploit them, all for the sake of the mighty buck and to satisfy company shareholders.

It pays to dig a little deeper when selecting whitegoods and other appliances. Tools such as Killawatt can help determine how much electricity an appliance uses – if the salesperson lets you use it.

Other than that, if you learn through research a company has been found to be engaging in fraud in regard to energy efficiency claims, perhaps steer clear of them altogether. If enough consumers do so, it will provide a clear message to other manufacturers that this type of deception isn’t worth the risk.


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