LG Gets Chilly Response to Legal Plea to Keep Energy Star Rating on Fridges

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In a previous post, I wrote about the settlement agreement between the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and LG Electronics (LG) about certain LG refrigerator models that had received the ENERGY STAR certification despite not actually meeting the required efficiency standards.

As part of the agreement, LG engaged in certain remedial measures for consumers of the models at issue.  In addition, the agreement detailed how the refrigerator models were to be tested going forward. 

DOE adjusted the testing procedures for LG to take into account the peculiarities of the particular models at issue – so-called “French Door” models – that use more energy because they incorporate an ice maker within the fresh food compartment of the refrigerator. 

The fridges use a fill tube heater and an ice ejection heater to maintain the fresh food compartment above freezing temperatures while maintaining the ice making assembly below freezing temperatures.  LG was permitted to test the fridges with the ice maker disabled and the two heaters off. 

The agreement provided these exceptions were “for the purposes of testing under this Agreement subject to further notice by DOE.”

DOE subsequently determined that this test procedure exception resulted in underreporting of the energy consumption of the French Door refrigerator models.  So DOE revoked the exception provided in the agreement and demanded that LG remove the ENERGY STAR label from the models at issue.

Late last year LG sued DOE in federal court in Washington, DC requesting that the court issue an injunction to allow it to retain the ENERGY STAR label on its French Door refrigerators.  In a motion for preliminary injunction, LG argued that DOE’s actions violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), the Energy Policy and Conservation Act and LG’s due process rights.

Last month, the court denied LG’s motion.  In a Memorandum Opinion (lg_opinion.pdf), the court held that DOE did not violate the APA because the agreement did not represent a definitive interpretation of testing procedures but only a revocable exception to its procedures. 

The court further held that DOE’s justifications for revoking the agreement’s testing exception were not arbitrary and capricious.

As to LG’s due process claim, the court found that LG’s due process property interest was satisfied by its “post-deprivation suit for breach of contract.”  The court also held that being required to remove the ENERGY STAR certification from only certain refrigerators does not rise to the level of implicating a due process liberty interest.

Despite the setback, LG is maintaining its commitment to energy efficient refrigerators:  before the court decided its motion LG was already making French Door fridges that comply with the DOE’s certification requirements and will bear the ENERGY STAR label.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.