The End Of the Road For Henry? Household Favourite Threatened By New Vacuum Cleaner Laws:

On 11th January, British Prime Minister David Cameron received a letter from 95 of his Conservative Party MPs. It wasn’t a New Year’s greeting, wishing him all the best for 2014. It was a demand that (as noted by the Daily Telegraph’s Political Correspondent, Tim Ross) the UK Parliament should been given the “authority to block new European Union (EU) legislation and repeal existing measures which (so they believe) imperil Britain’s ‘national interests’ ”. Their priority is for the country to “regain control over its immigration and energy policy”, its business sector relieved of bureaucratic interference from Brussels and “the spread of human rights laws (in the form of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights) to be reversed”.

 Cameron’s assurances that he will “renegotiate Britain’s relationship with Brussels” and hold a referendum on EU membership in 2017 (if he is still Prime Minister after the 2015 General Election) is unlikely to placate the “rebels”. Many of them undoubtedly share the view of the Madrid-based political analyst, Soeren Kern (expressed in an article for the  “Gatestone Institute” on November 14th 2013) that a “Dictatorship of the Bureaucrats” is imposing unnecessary restrictions on thousands of consumer products, including: “bananas, clothes dryers, cosmetics, cucumbers ,fruit jam, laptop computers, laundry detergents, light bulbs, olive oil, plastic bags, refrigerators, showerheads, televison sets, tobacco, toilets, toys, urinals and wine-cooling cabinets”.

Kern quoted as an example the European Commission Regulation No. 1677/88, whereby “Class 1” and “Extra Class cucumbers were allowed a bend of 10mm per 10cm of length, “Class 11” cucumbers could bend twice as much, but any that were curvier could not be bought or sold. After a “public outcry”, this prohibition – as well as on “imperfectly shaped Brussels sprouts, carrots, cherries and garlic”  – was abandoned. Another EU rule has stipulated that “jam can only be labelled as such if it contains more than 60% sugar. If it has less than 60%, it must be called a “fruit spread”; if less than 50%, a “conserve”. In an interview with the “Daily Telegraph”, British Business Secretary Vince Cable considered this to be “ridiculous” – that if it looks, smells and tastes like jam, that’s what it is.

According to Kern, this seemingly endless number of edicts (such as the outlawing of the incandescent bulb in 2012) constitutes “an unacceptable intrusion into the private lives of 500 million EU citizens who are never consulted on any of these issues”. As an illustration, he asserts that “Regulation (EU) No. 666/2013”, which restricts the power of domestic vacuum cleaners, was quietly enacted during the summer holidays in August 2013 and thus “was largely unnoticed by the general public until the German newspaper “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (FAZ) published a story about it on October 24th”.

As from September 2014 (reported FAZ), “Only vacuum cleaners consuming less than 1600 watts may be sold in the EU. From 2017, only a maximum of 900 watts will be permitted”. In the UK, there was a prompt and mainly hostile media response to this development: The “Mail Online” declared that “Now Europe wants to make it harder for you to clean your carpets” and that home owners would be weakened in their battle against dust and dirt. “The Scotsman” pondered over whether the requirement that new vacuum cleaners should “consume no more than 62 kilowatt hours of electricity annually, based on 40 hours usage over a year, would jeopardize the cleanliness of the nation’s homes”. It noted that “current bestsellers include the 1,300-watt Dyson DC33, the 2,000-watt Electrolux Powerplus Z4471 and the 2,200-watt Miele S5211 Power Plus” – all of course well over the new EU limits.

Even the left-wing “Daily Mirror” acknowledged that the new scheme has been castigated as “backward and a return to the old-fashioned vacuums of the 1990’s” – reminiscent of a “Washington Post” editorial asserting that “forcing the public to revert to pushing brooms and using wash cloths (instead of washing machines) is not going to save any polar bears”.

The Mirror’s “top four” vacuum cleaners – Hoover’s “Hurricane Power Bagless”(2,300 watts), “Breeze Pets Bagless”(2,200 watts), “Pure Power Bagged” (2000 watts) and Bosh’s “Pet and Carpet Cylinder Bagless (2,200) all also exceed the prescribed margins. The extremely popular “Henry HVR00A” (the one with the red face, big smile and large eyes) uses only 1200 watts and so will be allowed to survive until September 2017.

The “” website  predicts that, with “smaller vacuum cleaners, housewives (& husbands) will have to spend twice as long vacuuming to get the house clean and so will use up more electricity”. Giles Chichester MEP (Conservative Energy spokesman at the European Parliament) suggested (to the Daily Telegraph) that the ban “ could have a severe impact on allergy and asthma sufferers” and that this was a case of legislation “with good intentions but detrimental side-effects”.

However, Paul Pearce, technical director of the National Carpet Cleaners Association (NCCA) has pointed out that “The performance of a vacuum cleaner has more to do with airflow than the power rating and so it should be possible to reduce the power without affecting the cleaning performance”. The “Cool Products” organization likewise considers that “Lower wattage vacuum cleaners can be as effective at cleaning our floors and at the same time could save as much as 20 TWh of electricity annually in the EU – equivalent to the residential electricity consumption of Belgium”.

Meanwhile, the British manufacturer Dysons (which pioneered the bagless vacuum cleaner) has launched a challenge at the European General Court in Luxembourg against the EU’s new A-G rating scale for vacuum cleaners based on their performance and energy  efficiency. Testing them in a dust-free laboratory (Dysons told the BBC) is completely different from the consumers’ real experience, when “bags and filters clog with dust as a machine is used, leading to a loss in suction”. Furthermore, many machines may “technically achieve the higher energy label grades but are too difficult to push around the home. Good for the laboratory, but not for vacuuming”.


Filed under: Healthcare, Society | Posted on January 21st, 2014 by Colin D Gordon

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