A year on and consumers are just as confused over EU rules governing the labelling and power of vacuum cleaners as they were when the requirements were introduced. Nothing has changed, except that manufacturers are attempting to sue either each other or the EU; and consumers are buying vacuum cleaners that they may be ultimately unhappy with. Often consumers are finding that vacuum cleaners, particularly cylinders, are harder to use than before. This is due to the fact that, to meet the EU requirements and achieve the pick up of dirt that is specified, manufacturers are making machines where the floorhead sticks to the floor. In reviews, where vacuum cleaners have been tested in ‘real world’ situations, this is a common problem. Anecdotally, retailers have seen an increase in returns on some manufacturer’s models because customers are finding the machines difficult to use and not performing as expected. Indeed, the level of customer dissatisfaction has led some retailers to stop stocking certain models. When it comes to the labels themselves, it seems likely that the majority of consumers are taking little notice of them and, where they do, are probably left confused. They will almost certainly have scant grasp of what the data shown really means or how little the tests used to gather it relate to the actual everyday use of a vacuum cleaner. Ironically, it is now often the case that the better the vacuum cleaner performs, the worse the rating on the label. Our key objections to the legislation surrounding the energy label have always concerned the testing procedures, particularly the tests for pick up. Both the hard floor and carpet pick up tests require that a special type of sand be used. This is not something that is normally collected by vacuum cleaners: generally 80% of what is picked up is fluff, hair and fibre. The hard floor test also involves removing dirt from a 10mm deep by 3mm wide crevice. It does not take into account the need to clean the surface of the floor! The noise and filtration tests are equally farcical and in no way make for a more efficient and better-designed vacuum cleaner. ‘Ease of use’ is not part of the tests. There is little transparency for the consumer. In light of the Volkswagen scandal, it seems astonishing that the energy labels are self-certified and are open to abuse. Indeed, some of the ratings given by manufacturers are questionable to say the least. No wonder a generation of ‘tick box’ vacuum cleaners is being developed that are poor at picking up what needs to be picked up, good at picking up what does not need to be picked up, and frustratingly difficult to use. This is only the start. Currently, 1600w is the maximum wattage for vacuum cleaners but this figure drops to 900w in 2017. While quality brands will hopefully always offer superior performance, in future it may take a lot longer to clean a floor!
Posted By Philippa Worley
“Buyer beware” and “too good to be true” are the phrases that come to mind when one considers the way consumers are manipulated by certain vacuum cleaner manufacturers who regularly use the lure of ‘sale’ prices. Everyone likes a bargain and there is no reason why manufacturers and retailers should not use a sale to sell goods that are genuinely reduced from their normal price. The problem comes when the bargains that consumers think they are getting are not actual bargains but the result of fabricated price structuring. Strict government guidelines exist relating to sale pricing that attempt to protect consumers by ensuring price reductions are genuine. The most important point to note is that, broadly speaking, before prices can be reduced in a sale, an item must have been sold at the higher price for at least 28 consecutive days before the sale. In addition, the item must not be offered at the sale price for any longer than it was sold at the higher price. While adhering to the basic principles that these guidelines set out, some vacuum cleaner manufacturers do not embrace the underlying spirit. They instead employ a policy of ‘high-low pricing’ where they purposefully set an item at a high price to give customers the impression that this is the correct price for a product and then, 28 days later, significantly drop the cost and present it as a deal that is too good to miss. These tactics are not confined to vacuum cleaner manufacturers but they are rife within our industry amongst certain brands. For those involved, there is a very real danger that, after a while, this contrived means of attracting sales will taint the brand because consumers become savvy to the yo-yo pricing and simply wait for the next sale reduction. More worryingly, there are trust issues with retailers who become upset that they have bought at one price and are potentially having to sell at a price lower than they paid for the product. Retailers also have to deal with disgruntled consumers, unwittingly caught out by these fake bargains, who have bought at the higher price only to see exactly the same product being sold for significantly less than they paid. As has been seen with Black Friday, the benefits for retailers of large price reductions are often short lived. The idea being established in consumers' minds that, if they wait, there will always be another better and bigger bargain creates unsustainable peaks and troughs in the market and undermines acceptable margin levels. In the longer term, the manufacturers who consistently offer high quality products and attempt to sell at a fair price at all times are likely to be the real winners, along with the consumers who realise that a bargain is not necessarily what it appears and quality, ease of use and reliability are worth paying for. For more information on the SEBO range, please call 01494 465533 or visit www.sebo.co.uk. -ends-
Posted By Philippa Worley