Dyson to appeal European General Court Decision
Today the European General Court ruled that Dyson would not be awarded damages over Energy Labelling Regulations that were highly misleading to European shoppers and put Dyson at an unfair disadvantage. This follows a five-year legal battle that ultimately saw the regulation annulled in 2018. Dyson will appeal today’s decision.
The Commission’s Energy Label, introduced in September 2014, misled shoppers by overstating the energy efficiency of bagged vacuum cleaners, leading people to buy inferior products. It disadvantaged Dyson’s technology resulting in lost sales, and increased costs - including those associated with engineering, research and development.
Commenting on the ruling, a Dyson Spokesperson said,
In 2017 the European Court of Justice, Europe’s highest court, set out in clear terms that the Commission cannot validly test a vacuum cleaner when empty of dust and that, in unlawfully stipulating an empty test, the Commission had broken its own laws and ignored Dyson’s evidence. Now, ruling on Dyson’s damages claim, the lower-tier General Court, despite accepting the European Court of Justice’s ruling, seems to want to rewrite history. It is trying to argue that the dust loaded testing of vacuum cleaners is inaccurate. This is simply untrue. The Court has accepted the Commission’s tortuous and weaselly excuses to avoid accepting liability for its wrongdoing.
The General Court has chosen to turn back from the earlier decision of the European Court of Justice and seems unconcerned that the Commission broke their own law and ignored Dyson’s evidence – they declare it is not obvious enough for them to justify damages. This is an insult to the millions of shoppers who were misled and totally ignores the substantial harm – running to £150 million – caused to Dyson. Meanwhile the Commission walks away scot-free despite having favored the European bagged-machine lobby, including the major German manufacturers, throughout.
Dyson will appeal, as we disagree with the Court’s claim that there was doubt about dust-testing. These test methods were adopted decades ago by international standards organisations and applied by testing houses, laboratories, advertising standards bodies and courts across Europe and the world, without question. This judgment sets a very concerning precedent for future regulations across Europe and risks consumers being misled once again.
Bad regulation fails consumers, stifles innovation, hits jobs and slows growth. Dyson technology was significantly disadvantaged by the Energy Label leading to lost sales and significant engineering, research and development costs, not to mention five years of legal challenge to see it overturned. It diverted precious time and resources away from what we should have been doing – inventing and developing new energy efficient products. Is this really the best way to focus technology companies on developing more environmentally friendly products?
The labelling regulation, drawn up by the European Commission, stipulated that vacuum cleaners were tested for grading empty and with no dust. Unlike some cyclonic machines, vacuum cleaners which rely on bags and filters to separate the dust from the airflow can become clogged with dust as soon as the machine is used, often leading to a loss of suction. As such, consumers would buy a machine which claimed to have an A grade (per EU testing without any dust) but when it was used in the home and filled with dust that performance could drop down to a G grade.
Following Dyson’s five-year legal challenge (2013 – 2018), and appeal through the European Court of Justice, the regulations were found to be unlawful and the label removed from vacuum cleaners. In this most recent case, Dyson was seeking damages of £150m through the European General Court.
Dyson has consistently argued that caps on motor wattage, along with technological advancements that lead to rising levels of energy efficiency, are a far more effective way to spur innovation and reduce environmental impact. Power caps challenge companies to innovate in order to use each joule of energy more efficiently. Such regulations set a clear objective, then allow companies the freedom to work out how to achieve it.
Timeline of events
September 2014: The Energy Label for corded vacuum cleaners came into effect across Europe despite Dyson having argued that a cap on motor wattage was the most effective way of reducing the energy consumption of vacuum cleaners.
11 November 2015: The EU General Court dismissed Dyson’s claims and asserted that dust-loaded testing is not reliable or “reproducible” and therefore could not be adopted. This decision overlooked the fact that a dust-loaded test method was devised by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), an international standards organisation, and has been adopted by consumer test bodies and manufacturers worldwide. It also ignored the fact that other appliances, such as washing machines, ovens and dishwashers are tested full. We pointed out that Dyson conducts testing with multiple varieties of real dust and debris from the home including dog biscuits, Cheerios (both European and US versions), dust, fluff and grit. We also undertake simulated use testing, including dropping our machines, slamming them in doors, and throwing them down the stairs…repeatedly.
25 January 2016: Dyson appealed the General Court judgment to the European Court of Justice (CJEU).
11 May 2017: The court upheld Dyson’s appeal against the decision of the lower court stating in its judgement that the test must adopt, where technically possible, “a method of calculation which makes it possible to measure the energy performance of vacuum cleaners in conditions as close as possible to actual conditions of use”. The case was passed back to the General Court for them to reconsider.
8 November 2018: The European General Court annulled the regulation.
March 2019: Dyson submits application for damages.
January 2021: Oral hearing of damages.
December 2021: Decision handed down.