UK vacuum cleaner inventor and entrepreneur, Sir James Dyson, has won a surprise victory in the European courts, after claiming that EU rules unfairly penalised his company’s vacuum cleaners.
Dyson had claimed that EU recognised industry tests, which are used to label vacuum cleaners according to their energy efficiency and cleaning performance, were inaccurate.
The company argued that the tests only provided accurate figures when the vacuum cleaners’ dust bags were empty and did not reflect the true picture of everyday use when the dust bags were full.
Judges who heard the appeal in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) found that a previous ruling made against Dyson by a lower court had “distorted the facts” and “erred in law” by failing to comply in its duty to give reasons for its decision.
The ECJ upheld aspects of Dyson’s appeal, agreeing with the company’s claims that tests are available to measure a vacuum’s performance when full.
It also supported the company’s view that tests should “measure the performance of vacuum cleaners in conditions as close as possible to actual conditions of use”.
The ECJ set aside the previous judgment and has now referred the matter back to the general court, reserving costs.
Following the ECJ’s ruling, Dyson’s Chief Executive, Max Conze, said: “We feel vindicated. We [previously] lost on a simple point that made no sense.
“Vacuums should be tested as close as possible to real life conditions they would be used in, which they were not previously.
“The sad part of all this is it has been rather slow and consumers have been losing out and misled.”
Luke Morgan, a Partner with Palmers who specialises in commercial litigation, said: “Dyson took legal action in an attempt to level the playing field and ensure testing was relevant to real world product usage rather than clean, ‘dust-free’ laboratory conditions.
“The ruling by the ECJ Court of Appeal now means that the issue will now have to be re-heard by a general court to decide, once and for all, whether other vacuum cleaner manufacturers will need to fall into line with Dyson’s demands for fairer testing.
“Although commercial litigation of this kind can be protracted, Dyson has a reputation of not shying away from legal action in order to protect the uniqueness of its brand and ultimately the decision of the court will affect the future profitability of its products.”
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