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Energy-saving light bulbs: good for consumers but outstanding issues need to be addressed

Date

26 Aug 2009

Sections

Innovation & Enterprise

From 1st September 2009, incandescent light bulbs will gradually be removed from the European market. ANEC, the European Consumer Voice in Standardisation and BEUC, the European Consumers’ Organisation, welcome the phasing-out of incandescent light bulbs. Not only will consumers benefit financially from the measure, but most importantly, they will be able to contribute to improved energy efficiency by reducing their energy consumption.

Energy-saving light bulbs use up to 80% less energy and have a longer lifetime (8-15 times longer) compared to incandescent light bulbs. Bearing in mind that energy saving bulbs consume far less electricity, the differences in purchase price are evened out. For example, it is estimated that using energy-saving light bulbs instead of the old incandescent light bulbs could save an average household €166 on their electricity bills in one year1.

However, removing incandescent light bulbs from the market also holds drawbacks for consumers. The EU Regulation falls short of the needs of some consumers who need to use the old-style light bulbs for health-related reasons such as light sensitivity. We call on the European Commission to take immediate measures to ensure that people who rely on incandescent light bulbs will be able to buy these bulbs until suitable alternative lighting technologies are available. There are also concerns about the risks to health from the high mercury content of the new bulbs.

Monique Goyens, BEUC Director General, said:
“The benefits for both consumers and the environment are to be welcomed. However, further efforts are needed if the phasing-out of incandescent light bulbs is to run smoothly. During this transition period, consumers need to be informed how they can easily choose the best replacements for their old bulbs.”

Stephen Russell, ANEC Secretary-General, added:
“We urge the Commission to lower the limit values for mercury and to introduce a better recycling system. Although the current threshold is set at 5 mg of mercury per bulb, the best available technology enables the bulb to work with only 1-2 mg. Consumers should also have the possibility to return used bulbs to the point of sale without charge. Only in this way do we believe recycling can be made effective.”

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