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Brits say 'EU sucks' over vacuum cleaner ban

By Jim Boulden, CNN
updated 12:51 PM EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
  • Vacuum cleaners that use more than 1600 Watts can no longer be sold in stores in the EU
  • The European Union rule is intended to improve energy efficiency
  • Next year the EU will consider other appliances such as mobile phones and hair dryers

(CNN) -- The EU police are not about to take your vacuum cleaner away from you. So, stop worrying.

But Monday marks the day that super powerful vacuum cleaners that use more than 1600 Watts can no longer be sold in stores in the EU, nor manufactured in EU plants.

This should be of no shock to anyone. The rule - intended to improve energy efficiency - was agreed five years ago and manufacturers have reacted accordingly.

They may not like it. Dyson for one is looking for a judicial review of the new rule, though it has complied with it.

Jim Boulden
Jim Boulden

European consumers are used to this. New Wattage rules have already been in effect for light bulbs, televisions, washing machines and refrigerators.

But for some reason here in the UK, the vacuum cleaner appears a step too far for the popular press which has noted that the EU is "sucking" consumer rights out of Britain, or just that the "EU Sucks."

There are reports of a jump in sales of the more powerful vacuum cleaners over the weekend before the ban took effect.

"I believe there is a misconception and that is that if you have a high-voltage vac that also means that it has a lot of power to suck the dust," the EU spokesperson Marlene Holzner told me last week, dismissing endless columns of ink in Britain that we will have to vacuum for longer periods, hence use more electricity, to clean our homes.

Vacuum cleaners will also have those little A-G charts on them so we know how much they cost us to run.

There are also new rules on performance and noise levels. Outdoor vacs, wet and dry vacs and industrial vacs are exempt from all the new rules.

But that did not make much news in Britain.

Not that the EU is stopping there. The Wattage for vacuums will be lowered to a maximum of 900 Watts in 2017.

The current limit of 1600 Watts is just a temporary pause on the way to even more energy efficiency.

Next year the EU will start to talk about putting other appliances on the list; lawn mowers, mobile phones, hair dryers, kettles (watch out for the British headlines on that one -- EU Blows its Stack, EU Boils Over).

Brussels stresses there is no formal, or informal list and there is no guarantee new rules to lower the Wattage on smaller appliances will be adopted.

But the goal here is greater energy efficiency. The EU hopes to meet about a third of its power reduction targets in the coming years simply by reducing energy used by appliances.

It is finding steps to cut unnecessary power and it sees this as a less painful step on the way to that goal.

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