CHOICE's rigorous testing program has led to a win for consumers, with a major whitegoods company being forced to compensate customers after one of its fridges failed an energy check.
Hitachi has been ordered to make a one-off payment to customers after CHOICE testing found that the fridge used 12.3% more energy than Hitachi had declared.
When our tests revealed that the Hitachi R-V475PT5 and R-VG745PT5 fridges used 40.2kW more energy annually than stated on the energy rating label, we alerted the regulator – the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources.
"While we don't believe Hitachi intentionally misled consumers, this incident does highlight the complexity of the Australian Standard for fridges as we believe they misinterpreted its requirements when registering this fridge," says CHOICE whitegoods expert Ashley Iredale.
The fridge used 12.3% more energy than declared
"With years of fridge testing under their belts, CHOICE's expert testers are well versed in every aspect of the standard and were able to spot the discrepancy, at which point we contacted the regulator on behalf of consumers."
Hitachi has entered into an undertaking with the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources to pay a one-off amount of $174 to customers who purchased the fridge. This figure is the difference in projected energy costs over the fridge's lifetime.
The fridge's model and serial number are located on a sticker on the inside right-hand wall of the refrigerator, near the door seal.
The fridge models in question are:
To check whether your Hitachi fridge is one of the affected models, check the model and serial number on the sticker located on the inside right-hand wall of the fridge, near the door seal.
Hitachi says the rebate payments will be processed within six weeks of customers lodging a Rebate Claim Form. For more information visit www.hitachiregistration.com.au.
A win for consumers
"Honest mistake or not, this undertaking is a win for consumers and reimburses them for the running costs of their fridges," Ashley says.
The importance of testing
"The energy star rating label is an important tool for choosing an energy efficient appliance, and it's especially important for fridges because, unlike a toaster or a television, your fridge is always on. In fact, it accounts for around 8% of your household's total energy consumption," says Ashley.
Your fridge accounts for around 8% of your household's total energy consumptionCHOICE whitegoods expert, Ashley Iredale
"We consider the energy check a vital part of our testing, because the typical consumer has no way of knowing whether the claims on the label are correct – if they're not, you could be paying more than you should in running costs, for the entire lifetime of the fridge."
How our testing works
We test a fridges' energy consumption using the method specified in the Australian standard – the same method manufacturers are required to use when calculating their energy star rating.
The fridge in question is placed in a 32°C room and set to a target temperature of 3°C in the fresh food compartment and between -15 and -18°C in the freezer.
Once the temperatures have stabilised we measure the energy consumption and compare that to what's claimed on the star rating label.
A fridge fails if it's energy consumption is over 7.5% higher than claimed (there's some margin for error in the standard) or if it cannot reach the target temperatures required for the test.
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.