Monday, 21 January 2013

EU tyre labelling

Last Wednesday I finally got some winter tyres fitted, just in time for the recent snow.

In choosing the tyres, I did what most people do: I read some reviews, and I satisficed. I decided I was happy enough with the Michelin Alpin A4s available from KwikFit, and I booked my appointment. So far they're serving me well.

At no point in this process did I feel the need for guidance from the EU. But someone in Brussels has declared 'market failure' and sought to address it:

European Regulation No 1222/2009 came into force from 1st November 2012. Apparently my lovely new tyres have an 'E' rating for fuel efficiency and a 'C' rating for wet grip. Sad, I know, but somehow I'm managing to hold it together.

For those who care about fuel efficiency, engine and driving style are likely to be much more important factors. To the extent that tyres matter, it's probably enough to keep them properly inflated. As for wet grip, without knowing what temperature they performed the test at, I have no idea whether the rating is relevant. I could dig into the details, but life is too short. I suspect this expensive new labelling system will be widely ignored by consumers, just like the energy efficiency ratings for houses.

If the ratings do manage to influence customer behaviour, they may well be nudging people in the wrong direction. Even assuming that their tests are well designed, they focus attention on a narrow range of features and conditions, and discourage critical thought.

Incidentally, there are no prizes for guessing where the BBC stands on this: New European tyre labelling could save money and lives.

And a bit of googling turns up some classic astroturfing. The new EU labels are supported by The Campaign for Better Tyres.

The Campaign for Better Tyres is being co-ordinated by Environmental Protection UK (EPUK), a national charity that provides expert policy analysis and advice on air quality, land quality, waste, noise and climate change.

Environmental Protection UK was one of a consortium of NGO’s which lobbied for the introduction of the new EU tyre legislation, which sets stricter standards for tyres on energy efficiency, noise and safety and introduces mandatory tyre labelling.

The campaign has been funded with a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, with additional financial support from the European Federation for Transport & Environment.

And what about EPUK? A group of concerned citizens devoting their own money to an important cause? It seems not:

The UK's oldest environmental NGO has been forced to close after government cuts to local authority budgets drastically reduced its income.

Amazing. A non-governmental organisation entirely reliant on government funding. Sorry to see them go.

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