The Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) recent report citing LG, Samsung and Vizio for allegedly using more energy than is stated on Energy Guide labeling and advertising, has started influencing a series of class-action lawsuits from disgruntled customers.

Three recent cases have been filed against the companies following the NRDC report issued on Sept. 21, 2016 stating that the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC)-standardized test that Department of Energy (DOE) uses in its test procedure is not representative of how people view programming. The NRDC alleged that “Samsung and LG appear to be exploiting these anomalies to achieve lower energy use levels during the test than in real-world viewing.”

LG and Samsung TVs, specifically, were said to use energy-saving motion-dimming functions that automatically darken the screen during frequent scene changes or fast-action scenes.

Pat Remick, an NRDC spokesperson, told HD Guru: “We have no association with any class action lawsuits or the parties who filed them. Nor do we have a financial or legal stake in them. However, we completely stand behind our research and will continue our advocacy efforts to update the Department of Energy’s TV testing method and improve the energy efficiency of new TVs.

“We recently responded to the Department of Energy’s request for information regarding improvements to the TV testing method, and hope that our suggested changes are made as they are consistent with the recommendations made in the report,” Remick continued. “To the extent television energy efficiency is improved as a result of the outcome of this or a similar lawsuit, such result would be consistent with NRDC’s advocacy goals.”

Read more on the TV energy consumption class-action lawsuits after the jump:

Although Vizio’s displays don’t use a motion-dimming system, the environmental group said Vizio, like LG and Samsung, use an energy-saving automatic brightness control that adjusts picture brightness to suit ambient viewing conditions. But those systems are defeated by displays from all three brands without the knowledge of the user when the viewer adjusts picture settings. In the process, this turns off the default Eco Mode the displays are set to out of the box.

Following the report’s release, class-action lawsuits have emerged against each of the three companies named by the NRDC.

According to advertising watchdog web site Truth In Advertising, one of the most recent was filed Oct. 12, 2016 against Vizio for allegedly marketing its televisions as “energy efficient” and “Energy Star” certified when, in reality, software automatically disables energy-saving features whenever picture settings are changed. The complaint alleges this was not adequately disclosed to consumers, causing them to incur additional charges on their electricity bills.

The lawsuit was filed by James Unice in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania against Vizio, allegedly after Unice suffered damages from being misled into purchasing a falsely advertised television.

Unice is seeking a trial by jury and an order preventing Vizio from destroying any records that could serve as evidence, statutory damages, punitive damages, compensatory damages, restitution, declaratory and injunctive relief, a corrective advertising campaign, court costs and any further relief the court grants.

A similar complaint was filed by Andrew Schwartz, a Cook County, Ill., resident, who alleges Vizio “falsely and misleadingly” concealed the fact that changing picture settings caused its displays to surpass Energy Guide energy consumption labeling “thereby increasing purchasers’ electricity costs.”

A representative for Vizio did not return HD Guru’s requests for comment.

The law firm handling the case – Lemberg Law, LLC in Wilton, Conn. – also filed similar class-action complaints against LG and Samsung.

Earlier in October, a claim was made by Timothy Coghlan against Samsung in U.S. District Court in Chicago (Case No. 16-cv-9658, N. D. IL) for allegedly “misleadingly concealing that its televisions use more energy than the Energy Guide labeling and advertising.” Coughlan alleges that energy-saving features, such as an automatic brightness control (ABC) on the Samsung TV he purchased are disabled “without warning whenever the factory-default picture settings are changed,” the complaint states.

The complaint also picks up on the NRDC’s suggestion that Samsung and LG allegedly use energy savings features that were “primarily designed as a method by which to circumvent the Department of Energy testing video used on all Defendant’s televisions,” the complaint against Samsung states.

Coghlan’s case alleges that neither he nor any members of the class-action would have purchased the TVs or would have paid less for them had they known the TVs would use more energy than was claimed in labels and advertising. Potential parties called out in the class-action case includes all U.S. consumers who bought Samsung TVs since 2011 with the ABC or motion-dimming features.

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A Samsung spokesman told HD Guru that the company does not comment on pending litigation, but following the NRDC report on Sept. 21st, a statement was issued saying: “Samsung firmly rejects the accusation that we are misleading consumers. Our Energy Star rating is based on the default setting of our TVs. The majority of users stay within the default viewing settings through the lifetime of their television. Furthermore, we strongly believe that consumers should always have the option to customize the viewing experience on their TV.”

The company also noted after the NRDC report announcement that Samsung TV purchasers are told in owners’ manuals that adjusting picture settings will turn off energy saving features.

One of the first class-action cases to emerge from the NRDC report surfaced in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (Munoz et al v. LG Electronics U.S.A., Inc., Case No. 16-cv-5546, N. D. CA.) in September against LG Electronics for allegedly marketing its televisions as “energy efficient” and “Energy Star” certified, although the energy-saving features are automatically disabled when picture settings are changed. That case also alleges that LG did not adequately disclose the fact to consumers, causing them to incur additional charges to their electricity bills.

A spokesman for LG said the company could not comment on pending litigation, but like Samsung, it issued a statement immediately following the announcement of the NRDC report denying any intent to manipulate a loophole in the DOE test procedures.

“LG has followed both the letter and spirit of the DOE test procedure for TV energy testing, and we take great exception to the assertion that LG is `exploiting a loophole’ in the government test procedure,” LG’s statement said.

LG said it continues to work with DOE and others on developing energy standards and “for now, the IEC test clip is the standard that the industry must follow according to applicable law.”

Furthermore, “LG is implementing software for consumer notifications on 2016 and 2015 models that inform consumers that changing picture modes may impact energy consumption. It also allows consumers to turn on energy saving features in various picture modes.”

“LG’s 2017 TV models also will include a number of enhancements to the automatic brightness control (ABC) and motion eye care (MEC) features.  Specifically, the ABC feature will be implemented as the default in all picture modes (except HDR modes). What’s more, consumers will be able to activate MEC in all picture modes,” LG’s stated last September.

In its study, the NRDC said it tested a total of 21 TVs including: two Samsung, one LG and one Vizio in the lab with the rest tested in stores encompassing a variety of makes and models. Most were 4K Ultra HD TVs, all of which were 55-inches or larger.

Although the NRDC’s goal might be to reduce global carbon emissions, some believe their focus on television sets as a class of offending technology has drawn the ire of picture quality experts.

Kevin Miller, a founding member of the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and a professional television calibrator, told HD Guru that Eco Mode and similar energy saving features “are stupid” from the standpoint of good picture quality, and lamented the fact that ever-escalating energy consumption requirements contributed, in part, to the end of plasma TVs, which many picture quality experts embraced for their numerous benefits over LCD TVs.

Miller said he agrees that providing an on-screen warning indicator prior to changing a picture setting would make sense, but he added that ultimately it should be up consumers to choose to use more power to get a better picture when they want to, just as some automobiles provide more torque and use more gas in sport mode than in eco mode.

Miller confirmed the NRDC’s finding that Samsung, LG and Vizio TVs defeat energy savings features when picture settings are changed, and affirmed that Sony and Philips sets, which were recognized for accolades by the NRDC, allowed keeping a TV in energy savings mode even after adjustments are made to picture settings.

“You have to actually take Sony TVs out of ambient light sensor mode,” Miller said. “That does have a lot to do with affecting Energy Star levels.”

By Greg Tarr


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