INFORMING CONSUMERS ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENTAL PERFORMANCE OF CARS

UPDATING LEGISLATION TO ENSURE THAT CONSUMERS RECEIVE THE INFORMATION THAT THEY NEED   

The cars that we drive are changing. There is an increasing range of plug-in hybrid, battery electric and even hydrogen-powered cars on the market. At the same time, consumers are using the internet much more to research potential car purchases and to even buy cars. EU legislation from 1999 currently sets the framework for the provision of information to consumers on the environmental performance of new cars. This was adopted at a time when there were no mass market electric vehicles and when the use of the internet was still in its infancy. TEPR is currently supporting the European Commission in reviewing potential policy measures to keep consumers better informed.

Existing EU legislation 

EU Directive 1999/94 requires that information on new cars’ CO2 emissions and fuel consumption is made available to consumers, particularly in car showrooms. The aim was to ensure that consumers were aware of, and able to understand and compare, the environmental performance of different cars and so were able to take account of this information in their purchase decision, if they wished to do so.

The primary means of communicating this information is a label that has to be attached to (or be displayed near) new cars in car showrooms, while the information also needs to be included in a printed guide and in printed promotional material. The Directive is one of many pieces of EU legislation that together forms a policy framework to reduce transport’s CO2 emissions, which is one of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.

The changing car market

The EU Directive has not been updated significantly since its adoption in 1999. However, the car market has changed a lot. In recent years, an increasing number of models of plug-in hybrid cars, battery electric cars and even cars powered by hydrogen have come onto the market. With some countries talking about phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2035, the new car market is going to continue to change. It is important that consumers are aware of the advantages of, and differences between, cars that use electricity or hydrogen, and those that use petrol or diesel.

Potential changes to the EU legislation

Since its adoption, TEPR has been involved in a number of reports on the implementation of Directive 1999/94, including a 2010 report for the European Parliament, a 2011 report on the Directive’s implementation for the European Commission and a 2016 evaluation of the legislation. These have all noted the increasing importance of the internet as a source of information for consumers when they research new cars. In addition, each report has considered other changes to the legislation, including the potential extension of the legislation to used cars and new vans, which could help to reduce transport’s CO2 emissions.

The importance of consumers having the right information when they need it

It is important that the way in which information is provided to consumers, and the information that is given, reflects the changes in the car market and the increased importance of the internet as a source of information for consumers. TEPR is currently part of a consortium that is supporting the Commission in identifying the most appropriate means of communicating environmental information to potential car buyers, as well as what this information should consist of, with a view to potentially amending the existing EU policy framework.

Further information

For more information on the project, or TEPR’s work more generally, please contact Ian Skinner at TEPR (ian.skinner@tepr.co.uk) or call +44 (0) 1892 663289. Once it is published, the report will be available from the ‘Consumer information and behaviour’ page of TEPR’s website, where TEPR’s other work on the Directive can also be found.

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