Hot on the heels of the Volkwagen diesel scandal, news arrives that TV makers like Samsung may be doing something very similar. Independent lab tests in Europe have found that Samsung TVs appear to use less energy during official testing conditions than they do during real-world. Cheating on these tests can benefit TV makers because more efficient TVs get a more favorable energy label score.
Lab studies by EU-funded research group ComplianTV discovered Samsung's TVs consistently consume more electricity in real-world situations than in official test conditions. It appears Samsung's motion lighting feature reduces the brightness level of the TV under international electrotechnical commission (IEC) test conditions, whereas this behaviour was not observed under real-world viewing conditions.
The behaviour of the TVs during the measurements seems to suggest TV makers like Samsung use software to automatically lower the power consumption of the TV when the product detects it's displaying the standard film used for testing, but ComplianTV was not able to find evidence to support this claim.
There is no suggestion that Samsung behaved illegally, but the European Commission pledged to investigate the matter and said it will outlaw the use of defeat devices within TVs and other consumer products.
“Samsung is meeting the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law,” Rudolf Heinz, the project manager of ComplianTV’s product lab, told the Guardian.
“The commission is proposing specific text to clarify that [the use of defeat devices] is illegal and that products found to behave differently under test conditions cannot be considered compliant,” a spokesperson said. “The commission will investigate whether this practice is used in other product sectors.”
Samsung on the other hand denies any wrongdoing:
Samsung strongly denies that its TVs’ “motion lighting” feature is designed to fool official energy efficiency tests or that it constitutes a defeat device. The company says it reduces screen brightness in response to numerous types of real-world content including fast-moving action movies and sports and slower moving footage such as weather reports - not just during test conditions.
“There is no comparison [between motion lighting and VW defeat devices],” a Samsung spokesman said. “This is not a setting that only activates during compliance testing. On the contrary, it is an ‘out of the box’ setting, which reduces power whenever video motion is detected. Not only that, the content used for testing energy consumption has been designed by the international electrotechnical commission to best model actual average picture level internationally.”