Lawsuits, though often unpleasant in nature, are set in place so that individuals and companies stay within the law. When individuals or companies, don’t live up to promised expectations, they’re made accountable. Unless of course you’re Whirlpool and you’re tired of getting sued for not actually living up to the Energy Star label.
Whirlpool wants Congress to ban class action lawsuits over Energy Star labels after government testing showed that many products that carried the label, didn’t meet the requirements.
Energy Star has seen its share of enforcement problems and a host of consumer products that didn’t live up to the name, and as a result, Whirlpool has faced an onslaught of legal action. A bill introduced to Congress aims to change all that. The legislation would prohibit class action lawsuits if the EPA came up with a remedy instead, like reimbursing consumers, for example, when the Energy Star label wasn’t up to snuff.
But consumer advocates and trial lawyers see major problems with the legislation. The bill was introduced by Representative Robert Latta (R-OH) a Congressman with a few Whirlpool factories in his district and Peter Welch(D-VT), a member of the Alliance to Save Energy, of which Whirlpool is a member.
“By eliminating consumers’ access to the civil justice system, corporations will not be held accountable in court for swindling customers,” said Sarah Jones, a spokeswoman for the trial lawyers’ organization, the American Association for Justice.
Energy Star was created in 1992 to identify consumer products like refrigerators, televisions, dishwashers, and light bulbs that used less energy, but the organization has run into some problems of late. Most recently, Consumer Reports outlined some glitches in Energy Star refrigerators. They found that refrigerators that carried the label generally used 20 percent more electricity than the label said. Engineers performed tests on the appliances and found that they performed worse than some refrigerators that didn’t carry the label.
LG, Samsung, and Whirlpool have all been sued as a result of their lack of label compliance. Consumer Reports is also advocating against the law.
“E.P.A. and D.O.E. can’t be out there all the time,” she said to The New York Times. “Consumers need that backstop of the courts to get redress.” Class-action suits, she said, are appropriate in cases where “it’s lots of small injuries,” like an appliance that will use a few extra dollars’ worth of electricity every year.
Energy Star has been a blessing for those that want their homes to reflect their concern with energy efficiency and these lawsuits make companies accountable for their products.
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