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Understanding Consumer Behaviour

The United Kingdom works with business and other stakeholders to devise “roadmaps” for phasing out unsustainable products . In the case of improving the energy efficiency of household appliances (e.g. water heaters), labels were accompanied by minimum energy performance standards. Driven by these standards and consumers, manufacturers moved towards more eco-designs and efficiency gains. The less efficient machines, although often cheaper, were gradually taken off the market and price differentials were reduced. However, energy efficiency labels alone have not been generally effective in promoting more sustainable purchases. In many countries, providing information failed to get more than a minority of people to buy energy-efficient dishwashers, refrigerators and washing machines, even when labels highlighted savings on operating costs. However, reinforcing the label with an energy tax, as done in Germany and other countries through residential electricity charges, helped. Households facing higher costs tend to purchase energy-efficient appliances, change heating and cooling systems and invest in insulation or more energy-efficient housing. Many countries are now considering taxes and standards to accompany labels for light bulbs to close the price gap between traditional tungsten and more energy efficient models.