Consumers wanting to buy energy efficient electronic household products are being "left in the dark" about the greenest models to purchase, according to a new study released yesterday by the National Consumer Council (NCC).
The report – entitled Information Blackout: why electronics consumers are in the dark – looked at 350 consumer electronic products, including TVs, DVDs, laptops and set top boxes, and found that just one had an energy label sticker on it.
The report also uncovered a lack of information in retail stores and revealed that staff could not answer basic questions about the energy efficiency of products and that help lines and websites were equally ill equipped for helping eco-conscious consumers.
"Today's consumers need to be able to compare goods, and labels are a useful information shortcut," said Larry Whitty, chair of the NCC. "You would not expect to buy a car without knowing how much petrol it consumes, yet shoppers buying a television, for example, will have little idea how energy efficient it really is."
It also urged the government to slash VAT on greener products and insisted retailers should train staff and provide more information in store and on websites about which products are the most energy efficient.
The report came as Whitehall sources claimed Chancellor Gordon Brown was already in the process of lobbying his EU counterparts to cut VAT on the most energy efficient products to just five percent across the whole of Europe.
In a letter to Laszlo Kovacs, Europe's tax commissioner, Brown wrote that: "Incentives are needed to help address a number of failures in the market for [energy efficient] products. First, contrary to the 'polluter pays principle', the consumer who chooses a product designed to emit less pollution pays more. Second, there appears to be some short-sightedness in the market where many consumers choose an inefficient equivalent, despite the fact that in the long term the inefficient products costs more… Reducing the VAT on energy-efficient products would be an effective way of helping to tackle these market failures."
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