Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Whirlpool seeks ban on class-action suits tied to Energy Star program.
The New York Times (7/21, Wald, Subscription Publication, 9.79M) reports that Whirlpool, a leading manufacturer of home appliances, is lobbying Congress to ban consumer lawsuits that claim its "Energy Star" labeled products fail to deliver promised energy efficiency. The proposed bill comes after government testing "showed that scores of consumer products carrying the Energy Star label did not deserve the listing." The Times adds that Whirlpool "is threatening to withdraw from Energy Star, an Environmental Protection Agency program, unless it gets its way," but notes that and Energy Star distinction may boost a product's desirability, adding that "an E.P.A. survey found that the Energy Star logo was influential among 91 percent of consumers." The bill, introduced by Rep. Robert Latta (R-OH), whose district is "home to several Whirlpool factories," would "prohibit class-action lawsuits if the E.P.A. came up with a remedy, like reimbursing consumers, for products that did not live up to their billing." The Times reports that Shannon Baker-Branstetter of Consumers Union, the organization that publishes Consumer Reports, disagreed. "E.P.A. and D.O.E. can't be out there all the time," she said. "Consumers need that backstop of the courts to get redress." The Times also quoted a spokeswoman for the American Association for Justice, who said, "By eliminating consumers' access to the civil justice system, corporations will not be held accountable in court for swindling customers."