Mandatory water labels could see non-compliant retailers brought to book

Retailers could face action from authorities if they don’t display compulsory water labelling in their showrooms.

That is according to the latest proposals regarding the introduction of mandatory water efficiency labelling from The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The department has launched a 12-week consultation on proposals to introduce mandatory water labels for display on toilets, urinals, non-electric shower outlet devices and shower assembly kits, as well as kitchen and bathroom taps. Domestic appliances that use water, such as washing machines, dishwashers and washer/dryers are also included in the proposals.

Defra says a mandatory water efficiency label will give consumers the information they need to “make informed decisions when purchasing new water using products for their home. It will also help developers and water companies to improve water efficiency in buildings”.

A core element of the proposal is the role retailers must play in highlighting the label to consumers. The proposal states that retailers will be obliged to ‘clearly display the mandatory water efficiency labels provided by suppliers with their products when displaying and selling them, in line with what is specified in the regulations. This includes in-store and via distance-selling methods, such as internet sales and catalogues.”

If this element of the proposal is passed, failure to do so could mean the retailer facing action from a national enforcement body.

Although we do not know yet precisely what form such action could take, we already know that failure to display energy labels means a possible criminal conviction and a fine in the event of prosecution.

According to the proposals, suppliers will need to assess the water efficiency rating of their product(s) and include the label with the product and in marketing literature.

The consultation closes in three months. Regulations to introduce mandatory labelling will be laid in 2023, with new obligations, particularly on retailers, by 2025.

Reacting to the launch of the Defra consultation, BMA chief executive Tom Reynolds said: “Water labelling can help consumers make informed and more sustainable choices when purchasing a new bathroom. Indeed, the existing Unified Water Label (UWLA) has done much work promoting water efficiency and providing some best practices for effective labelling. Water-efficient purchases, along with behaviour change, are needed if the government is to achieve its target to reduce water use from an average of 145 litres a day to 110 litres by 2050.

“We are still digesting all the policy proposals within the consultation and weighing up what they mean for the sector. There are a few areas where we will seek a little more clarity from officials before formally responding to Defra.”

Speaking from a retailer’s perspective, Derek Miller, co-owner of Scope Bathrooms in Glasgow said: “If retailers face potential action from a national enforcement body, there will be little option but to display the label at bay settings. It would be down to the manufacturers to provide the data and the labels/stickers, and for their reps to assist showroom staff with the implementation.

“On that basis, assuming retailers are given sufficient notice, the task won’t be too onerous. Only time will tell if it influences consumer decision-making in any way, especially around the area of shower performance.”

Paul Crow, MD Ripples added: “The world can’t carry on as it is and we can’t wait for others to do something when we can, as individuals, an industry and as suppliers of water delivery products, do something today.

“We do also need to acknowledge that small business owners are juggling lots of balls at the moment and more keep being thrown at us and at a faster pace.  It is vital that everyone in the supply chain works in collaboration on this.  How the BMA helps its customers will be the real test for them.”

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