By Lisa Johnston
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LG Electronics has offered to make in-home modifications on French door refrigerator models that were improperly certified as Energy Star compliant.
Under terms of an agreement with the United States Department of Energy (DOE), LG will also compensate owners, modify unsold inventory and remove five current models from the Energy Star program.
According to both parties, LG rated the refrigerators on the basis of a standard test procedure that has been widely used for nearly 30 years. LG said it didn't take into account different applications of the testing rules for newer technologies used in the latest energy-efficient products. DOE said LG specifically didn't set the refrigerators' temperature-controllable compartments to their coldest levels, a requirement for energy-usage measurements.
Energy Star is a voluntary partnership between DOE, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and manufacturers that seeks to reduce air pollution through increased energy efficiency. Some states provide rebates for purchases of Energy Star-rated products. To qualify for an Energy Star rating, refrigerator-freezers must use at least 20 percent less power than the government-mandated standard.
Affected models include 10 LG-branded SKUs and 12 Kenmore-branded Trio units designed and manufactured by LG and sold by Sears.
Current LG models include the LFX23961, LFX25971, LFX21971, LMX25981 and LMX21981, all with in-the-door ice and water dispensers.
The refrigerators carry suggested retails of between $2,200 and $3,500.
Five discontinued models include the LFX25950, LFX25960, LFX21960, LFX25980 and LFX21980.
The affected Kenmore units have in-the-door ice and water dispensers and model numbers beginning with 795.
Under terms of its agreement with DOE, LG will offer to modify consumers' refrigerators at the company's own expense. The modification, which involves replacing the ice maker's circuit board and reprogramming the fridge, will make the units more energy efficient but not Energy Star compliant.
According to LG spokesman John Taylor, the company is working with servicers, servicing dealers and through its own service network to implement the modifications.
LG will also provide consumers with a one-time cash payment covering the difference between the energy rating listed on the original EnergyGuide label and the restated energy rating, plus annual payments for future incremental energy usage for the expected useful life of the appliance, up to 14 years.
LG said it will attempt to contact all previous purchasers of the affected units, and has established a special hotline — (888) 848-1266 — and Web site (www.lgrefrigeratoroffer.com).
The company is also modifying all unsold inventory, changing all labeling and marketing material to reflect the new energy ratings, and will introduce redesigned, Energy Star-rated ice-and-water dispensing French door refrigerators early next year.
LG wouldn't ascribe a dollar figure to the expenditures, but Taylor described the remedial actions as "a major commitment."
For its part, Sears said through a spokesman that losing the Energy Star rating "is not a safety or quality issue," and that planned modifications on its Kenmore Trios will be implemented through Sears' own product-repair technicians. "We continue to sell a large selection of other Energy Star-rated models," he told TWICE.
In a statement, John Mizroch, DOE's acting assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy, said the agency "believes that the actions LG plans to take will benefit consumers and help ensure that the nation's energy-conservation goals are met."
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