Dyson has lost a legal fight for a claim of GBP151 million in compensation for losses that it said were caused by flawed European Union energy labelling rules.
The British company, founded by Sir James Dyson, a prominent supporter of Brexit, contested EU labelling requirements on vacuum cleaners in 2014 that, he said, unfairly benefited his German rivals.
He argued testing requirements discriminated against Dyson bagless, “cyclonic” vacuum cleaner technology and misled customers about the efficiency of other appliances.
Under the former EU testing regime, vacuum cleaners which rely on bags and filters were tested empty whereas in a household environment airflow would quickly be obstructed by dust leading to a loss of suction.
As such, Dyson argued, consumers would buy a machine rated as A-grade for energy efficiency but when it was used in their home, and filled up with dust, performance could drop to much lower ratings.
It won its campaign in 2018, after Britain voted to leave the EU, when the European Court of Justice struck down the rules, forcing the European Commission to scrap them.
Dyson began a new legal challenge to seek compensation for EUR176 million in losses incurred, it said, because of the unfair advantage given to vacuum cleaners sold by competitors.
But yesterday the lower tier EU General Court rejected claims that the flawed testing regime “was inexcusable or intentional”.
“Irrespective of any objective difference between cyclonic vacuum cleaners and other types of vacuum cleaner, the commission did not manifestly and gravely disregard the limits on its discretion or commit a sufficiently serious breach of the principle of equal treatment,” the judges ruled.
Dyson will appeal against the judgment. It accused the court of accepting “the commission’s tortuous and weaselly excuses to avoid accepting liability for its wrongdoing”.
“Dyson technology was significantly disadvantaged by the energy label leading to lost sales and significant engineering, research and development costs, not to mention five years of legal challenge to see it overturned,” the company said. “It diverted precious time and resources away from what we should have been doing — inventing and developing new energy efficient products. Is this really the best way to focus companies on developing more environmentally friendly products?”