The Austrian lighting manufacturer Planlicht has been censured by a German court for misleading claims for its LED fixtures’ performance.
The legal action is being widely seen as test case in the lighting industry over the validity of the data included in specification sheets.
The architectural luminaire maker XAL – which took the case against rival Planlicht – described the ruling by the Frankfurt Higher Regional Court as ‘a major step towards greater transparency’ in the industry.
The judges ruled that the advertising of LED luminaires with lumen values that refer to the LED itself and not to the luminaire is not permitted – especially when it is not clear to the customer what the value is actually referring to. A general reference in the descriptive text ‘lumen information = circuit board output’ is not sufficient for this. When advertising LED fittings, a power consumption that is lower than the actual power consumption of the lamp may not be indicated. Finally, the court ruled that only luminaires that actually have a Unified Glare Rating of less than 19 may be advertised as such. If other luminaires in the same family do not meet this criterion, they can’t be included in the description.
Planlicht CEO Felicitas Kohler says the company has been unfairly singled out and that the court ruling was based on out-of-date sales literature and practices.
'The judicial decision is based on a state of facts from 2013, when most lighting manufacturers published LED information on the luminous flux and power requirements of the LED boards. XAL decided to take legal action against the competitor they fear most and let all the others go their ways.
‘In fact, for all manufacturers of architectural luminaires, there is the challenge in making catalogues provide some overview. To detail all the technical specifications is not as easy as illustrated by you in your article for XAL, who displays luminous flux and power consumption data for only one specific light colour – for the most efficient, not for all.
‘On the fast-improving LED market, Planlicht decided to switch to net figures of luminous flux and power consumption of lighting systems and invested in our own light laboratory. This all happened long before the court decision in Frankfurt, which was based on a two-year old catalogue. So it had no effect on Planlicht; there was no penalty, just the order not to use the old catalogue.’
In a statement, XAL said: ‘Lighting designers and specifiers need exact information regarding lumen output and system capacity so that they can make sound decisions when selecting lighting. Especially when using high-quality LED luminaires, lighting designers expect to be able to rely on the information provided by the manufacturer.
‘But in fact, this information is not provided transparently in the print and online catalogues of some manufacturers. In many cases, the lumen output refers to the LED or circuit board itself, and is therefore substantially higher than the actual luminous flux of the luminaire.
‘But this value is not relevant for specifiers because it does not represent the visible light output of the luminaire itself. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the correct power consumption is also not always taken into account, but the power consumption without electronic ballasts. These levels are lower than the actual power consumption. This distorts the efficiency level, which is indicated in lumens/watts.
‘Such misleading information in catalogues poses serious risks for customers. They may be faced with lux levels that are too low, circuit breakers with insufficient capacity, and assumed efficiency levels that are not true.
‘To minimise such risks for customers and to prevent lights from being selected on the basis of incorrect information, [we] decided to take legal action against Planlicht based on a particularly clear case of misleading catalogue information. In its own catalogues, XAL provides a high level of transparency and wants customers to be able to fairly compare offerings across the industry and to be able to accurately plan their lighting systems.’
XAL chief Harald Dirnberger told Lux Review: ‘We’re confident that this ruling will set an important precedent and will contribute to a greater level of transparency in the entire lighting industry. As a manufacturer of high-quality lighting solutions, we see it as our duty to provide our customers with absolutely accurate information as a basis for their planning’.