PIAC Comments on Dishwasher Petition; Docket No. EERE-2018-BT-STD-0005-0001

The Public Interest Advocacy Collaborative (PIAC) respectfully submits to the Department of Energy (DOE) the following comments in opposition of the Dishwasher Petition the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed on March 21, 2018; Docket No. EERE-2018-BT-SDT-0005-0001; 83 Fed. Reg. 17768 (April 24, 2018).

PIAC Supports AHAM’s Caution Against Inventing a New Class of Dishwasher

PIAC is a non-profit law firm which provides analysis on a broad range of issues on behalf of San Diego, California-based non-profit organizations, public entities, government representatives, and news organizations relating to local, state, and national issues of importance. PIAC echoes the comments of Ms. Cleary in supporting the DOE efforts to “prevent[] a patchwork of state standards [which] reduces the manufacturing and consumer costs.”[1] As AHAM makes clear that adding a new classification of dishwashers results in an increase of regulation as it will compel manufacturers to devise new product classes which will “cause stranded investments” and additional costs on both consumers and manufacturers.[2]

The CEI Petition Omits Relevant Facts and its Data Lacks Context

First, the CEI Petition cites previous comments submitted by AHAM in response to DOE’s NOPR for Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Dishwashers; Docket No. EERE-2014-BT-STD-0021; RIN 1904-AD24, which stated that a survey on 11,000 dishwasher owners revealed that cycle time is one of the four biggest sources of dissatisfaction. However, the survey cited by AHAM was a product of the time it was conducted. Indeed, in that same paragraph, AHAM states that there is an “exceptionally limited number of models placed on the market to date.”

As AHAM provides in its comment, consumers already have access to shorter dishwasher cycles. The market corrected the concerns raised by AHAM in its 2014 comments. The survey no longer stands for the proposition for which CEI alleges.

Second, the CEI Petition then follows-up failure to provide context, with anecdotal evidence of “several dozen” consumer complaints. However, these comments are also misleading. The CEI’s supplement shows that these are reviews of only two dishwasher models designed for lightly soiled dishes – rather than normally soiled loads. Moreover, the CEI Petition fails to provide fair representation to consumer comments demonstrating satisfaction with current models.

Third, the CEI Petition cites Consumer Reports data to support its contention that average dishwasher times have increased. While accurate, those average times have increased, consumers still have access to shorter cycle models, and modern dishwashers are equipped with modes which reduce cycle time at the cost of efficiency.

Fourth, the CEI Petition fails to address Consumer Reports conclusions which found that many consumers pre-rinse their dishes which is no longer necessary.[3] Modern dishwashers are equipped with sensors which detect how dirty the water is and adjusts the water/energy requirements for each load. Therefore, pre-rinsed dishes fool the sensor, which likely accounts for some of the consumer complaints related to dirty dishes.

Finally, the CEI Petition relies on a single out-of-date survey and anecdotal excerpts from “several dozen” consumer complaints related to two models for the proposition that (1) a substantial number of consumers are dissatisfied with the current crop of dishwasher models and (2) that modern dishwasher cycles are too long. The CEI Petition does not cite any other studies or surveys to support its proposition. The CEI Petition presents incomplete data and omits relevant facts which would provide context.

Deregulation for the Sake of Deregulation Increases Market Uncertainty

While PIAC supports the government’s policy of removing or updating outdated laws – it opposes actions – like the proposed rule here – to engage in deregulation for the sake of deregulation. The history of deregulation in the United States is a story of unintended consequences.

By way of example, the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 was passed to reduce costs to consumers and prevent the “unreasonable concentration which would tend to allow one or more carriers to increase prices, reduce services, or exclude competition unreasonably.” However, in the decades following deregulation, the number of major airlines has shrunk from 43 to 9; employees were forced into two-tier wage systems; poorer service; increase baggage fees; fees for canceling or transferring tickets; reduced legroom, and abandoned routes to smaller cities.[4] Moreover, smaller cities’ economies suffer when they lose access to an airline.[5] However, the deregulation also had significant benefits, including dramatically reduced prices which more than tripled the number of passengers per year.[6] Therefore, while there were benefits, there were also many costs.

Second, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was the government’s attempt to refrain from regulating the Internet. And, in the early days of the Internet, it was largely successful. A bevy of companies, large and small, spawned on the Internet fulfilling an unimagined series of roles. However, failure to regulate the collection of consumer data, the failure to require minimum levels of security to store consumer data, and the failure to proscribe rules concerning the use of consumer data has resulted in a cacophonous range of consumer-related disasters from easily-preventable data breaches (such as the Equifax breach) to misinformation campaigns on social media both here and abroad.

The common narrative of these two illustrative examples is that deregulation (and refraining from regulation) is a powerful tool to channel reduce costs and benefit consumers. However, deregulation can also result in unintended consequences for thousands of Americans. Therefore, it is incumbent on the DOE and the government, in general, to carefully study these proposals (as they should before enacting or rescinding rules).

[1] Jennifer Cleary, AHAM Comments on Dishwasher Petition; Docket No. EERE-2018-BT-STD-0005-0001; RIN 1904-AE35, page 1 (June 25, 2018), https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=EERE-2018-BT-STD-0005-2233

[2] See AHAM Comments on DOE’s NOPR for Energy Conservation Standards for Residential Dishwashers; Docket No. EERE-2014-BT-STD-0021; RIN 1904-AD24 (March 25, 2015) (“The dishwasher is a holistic system—changes in one area impact other areas. The washing process, and ultimately, was performance, is a function of washing temperatures, length of washing cycles, types and amounts of detergent applied, and mechanics. As each of these factors changes, the other elements must compensate for the change or wash performance will suffer. For example, if washing temperatures and mechanics are decreased to meet stringent energy conservation standards, the length of the washing cycle will have to increase in order for performance to be maintained. And, as DOE’s levels become more and more stringent, cycle length will reach a level unacceptable to consumers. It is likely that DOE’s proposed levels will have that effect.”).

[3] Perry Santanachote, “How to Use Your Dishwasher,” Consumer Reports, August 15, 2019; https://www.consumerreports.org/dishwashers/how-to-use-your-dishwasher/

[4] Collins, Michael, “Did Deregulation Work?” Industry Week, October 26, 2016, https://www.industryweek.com/regulations/did-deregulation-work

[5] Chura, Hillary, “Lacking Airlines, Small Cities’ Economies Suffer,” New York Times, January 9, 2009, https://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/10/business/economy/10airports.html

[6] Hon. Breyer, Stephen, “Airline Deregulation, Revisited,” Bloomberg, January 20, 2011, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2011-01-20/airline-deregulation-revisitedbusinessweek-business-news-stock-market-and-financial-advice

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