Most household appliances are currently labelled according to a colour-coded A-G system introduced in the 1990s with A the most efficient and G the least.

But with most appliances now rated as A, the EU has decided to introduce an updated labelling system for appliances more efficient than the hitherto top grade.

EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs said: “This package of ecodesign and energy labelling measures is a crucial contribution to achieve our energy efficiency goals.”

He added the new system is “very clear for consumers, accelerates the race for top efficient products, and boosts market transformation and energy savings”.

Extra energy efficiency classes such as A-20%, A-40% will be added to the label on top of class A to denote how much more efficient they are than A.

Manufacturers will be able to label appliances that are more efficient than the top class before the new system, which will also apply to televisions, comes into force in 2012.

They welcomed the move.

Luigi Meli, director general of the European Committee of Domestic Equipment Manufacturers (CECED), which represents the European household appliance manufacturing industry, said: “The new label layout is a winning solution for all parties.

“It offers the consumer transparency on the energy efficiency levels that can be gained when comparing appliances, and it offers industry an opportunity to continue to work toward even greater energy savings and innovation.

“Technological competition between industry players will further boost progress on energy efficiency and CO2 emissions.”

But some consumer groups are unhappy about the new labelling.

Monique Goyens, director general of BEUC, the European Consumers’ Organisation, said: “Member states and the European Commission should not count on consumer organisations’ efforts to communicate the meaning of this new layout to the users. We will not promote a label which is so incomprehensible.”

The committee also approved new minimum energy-efficiency standards for televisions and large household appliances and staggered the banning of lower efficiency refrigerators, freezers and washing machines in coming years.

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David Gibbs

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