Cleaner frustration continues according to Justin Binks, MD of SEBO
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!