By MELISSA SINGER – The Age via Stuff.co.nz, 18/03/2010
An electronics manufacturer with a history of making false environmental claims has been caught doctoring fridges to make them appear more energy efficient.
LG Electronics has agreed to compensate potentially thousands of Australian consumers after two of its fridges – models L197NFS and P197WFS – were found to contain an illegal device that activates an energy-saving mode when it detects room conditions similar to those in a test laboratory.
The so-called circumvention device was discovered last month by Australian consumer advocacy group Choice.
The device detects test conditions and activates the mode, creating the impression of lower running costs and energy usage. The devices have been banned in Australia since 2007.
In reality the fridge, which has a 3.5 star energy rating, costs an extra $250 to run over 10 years and can severely affect food quality because it can shut off when opened.
Choice’s tests found the energy consumption of the fridge was 876 kilowatt hours a year, compared to the advertised 738kWh.
Yesterday, Choice chief executive Nick Stace said the fridge was an extreme example of a company making false or misleading environmental claims, known as ”greenwashing”.
”This fridge is both a potential danger to your food, your wallet and the environment,” Mr Stace told the Choice National Consumer Congress.
LG Electronics has agreed to pay affected customers $331 to cover the unexpected increase in their power bills, but has not agreed to refund the purchase price of the fridge.
It is the third time LG Electronics has been caught making false claims about its products’ environmental credentials in Australia.
In 2008, it had to repay $3 million after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission ruled it had inflated the energy efficiency rating of five models of air-conditioner.
It is believed the ACCC is investigating the latest matter. An ACCC deputy chairman, Peter Kell, would not comment on the investigation, but said new consumer laws would give regulators greater powers to police claims.
A spokeswoman for electrical retailer, The Good Guys, said it received a manufacturer’s recall notice from LG for the L197NFS fridge on February 26.
She said the company would offer customers a full refund.
LG Electronics Australia failed to return calls yesterday.