Thousands of UK families could be in line for compensation after tests suggested numerous domestic appliances use more energy than they claim. Tests have found that several high street brands of washing machines, TVs, dishwashers and other goods overstate their energy efficiency ratings.

According to UK media reports, The Energy Saving Trust, which leads the MarketWatch programme, said it is testing 100 products on sale across Europe, including dishwashers, TVs, tumble driers and freezers. So far it has found that out of 36 appliances tested 14 fall short in some way.

UK energy efficiency

The National Measurement and Regulation Office (NMRO), the UK regulator, and MarketWatch, an EU-funded programme, are carrying out separate testing programmes on electrical appliances.

The energy efficiency ratings products are based on tests carried out by the manufacturers themselves. But both the NMRO and Market Watch have found products on sale that use more energy than claimed or fail to comply with efficiency rules.

These included products that appeared to be in lower energy classes than stated, appliances that used more standby power than allowed within EU limits, and products that took longer to perform certain functions than advertised.

Further tests are now planned to confirm discrepancies, including on two tumble-drier models for sale in the UK. If the Energy Saving Trust’s remaining tests show similar results it would suggest the problem could affect thousands of appliances bought in Britain.

EU finds as many as one in five appliances do not meet regulations

The European Union (EU) estimated that European consumers are losing 10.5 billion euros every year in extra energy costs as a result. If the latest tests confirm a widespread problem British consumers could be in line for compensation payments totalling thousands of pounds.

Industry sources said compensation would reflect “the extra cost taken to run the machine over its life span or an average of 12 years” and could result in payments of £50 per item or more.

Stewart Muir, certification manager at Energy Saving Trust, said: “These energy consuming products and appliances cost money to run and ultimately we want to make sure the customer isn’t left out of pocket. But we have found that a number of products sold in the UK do not match their energy efficiency claims.” Some manufacturers have already begun to compensate customers for making misleading energy efficiency claims on their products.

In one recent case households in the UK who had bought a model of Miele freezer were given £50 vouchers after it emerged the product performed with an A+ energy efficiency rating, not the A++  under which it had been sold.

The compensation was designed to “negate the financial costs resulting from the unexpected extra energy consumed over the freezer’s lifetime”, according to an NMRO report.

According to Muir, “We are testing products to reveal their true energy efficiency performance and whether they are as energy efficient as their energy label suggests.

“The MarketWatch programme aims to raise awareness of manufacturer non-compliance so we can make sure consumers aren’t misled by any exaggerated claims or errors. MarketWatch revealed that in a small number of instances some manufacturers’ claims are falling down.”

As an example the Energy Saving Trust said the difference in annual running costs between an C and D-rated tumble dryer is £4.

That means people who bought a C-rated dryer might stand to pay £4 extra to dry their laundry a year than they would have expected to when they bought the product.

Muir said: “If one in four households in the UK owned a C-rated tumble dryer that did not match its stated energy claim in this way, collectively this would increase UK energy bills by over £7 million every year.”

The NMRO said it had tested 93 products in the past financial year, of which 19 had failed in some way to meet the Ecodesign and Energy labelling directives.

The range of failures identified by the NMRO varied from “minor colour formatting issues through the complete range of technical failures”.

Both the NMRO and MarketWatch chose which models to test based on intelligence suggesting there may be concerns, meaning the failure rate they discovered may not be representative.

Huw Jones, assistant director of the NMRO, said there was “no suggestion that any of the models were fitted with devices to alter their performance during testing conditions”.

He added, ”The NMRO do not have powers to order a company to compensate consumers. However we attempt to ensure that, where appropriate, environmental or third party restitution is made when a civil sanction is issued or an enforcement undertaking accepted.”

The NMRO and MarketWatch said they were unable to disclose the names of the manufacturers or products in question.