Consumers trying to use eco-cheques to buy a new TV or computer screen will find nothing available under new rules, while washing machines are no longer fully covered.
On 1 March the European Union introduced a new set of energy labels, in an effort to reset the programme which had evolved to such a state that few if any electrical and electronic goods had anything but an A+++ label.
The grades have now been adapted, so that the highest rating, A, is for the time being an empty set. That, the EU explains, allows room for the technical evolution of products that are even more energy efficient than anything currently on the market.
The only problem is that the system of eco-cheques – non-salary remuneration offered by employers to staff, able to be used for a wide variety of eco-conscious purchases – has not changed in tandem with the labels system.
For example previously, a TV could be paid for by eco-cheque if it had a label A, B, C or D.
Now, however, there is not a TV or screen on the market with anything but an E or F label, explains Koen Cabooter of the small business network Unizo.
“The problem is that you won’t find anything anywhere,” he said.
“Go and have a look at all the websites: even high-tech TVs and monitors have a maximum E or F label. This is to be reviewed before September: it is imperative that adjustments are made.”
Another problem arises when buying a washing machine. Until last Monday, the price of a washing machine could be covered 100% with eco-cheques, providing the machine had a rating of A+ – which every machine on the market did.
Now, however, the category that most machines sit in only allows coverage of 30% of the price. Only machines with an A rating will be covered 100% – and so far those do not exist.
To sum up:
Washing machines and dryers: only A
Dishwashers: A, B or C
Fridges, freezers, TV and computer screens: A, B, C or D
There are as yet no new rating for lightbulbs, so the old rule still applies: A+ at least.
However the news is not all bad.
Five new labels have been added to the list of products that may be paid with eco-cheques: Ecogarantie (cosmetics, care products, cleaning products), Cosmebio (cosmetics), MSC (fish), Cosmos Organic (cosmetics) and Global Organic Textile Standard (textiles).
Other additions to the list: membership or subscription to a city garden organisation; rental of equipment like tents or tables and chairs for gardens; rental of travel articles like special clothing; worm bins for the treatment of compost; refurbished ICT materials.
Other articles and products may be added to the list later, once the National Labour Council has completed the task of applying the new EU regulations to the marketplace in Belgium.