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Dishwasher Ruling a Win for Consumers


By Kristen Walker, American Consumer Institute

Last week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against the Biden administration’s attempts at further regulating dishwashers. This is great news for consumers.

DOE in 2022 had repealed a Trump-era decision which allowed consumers a choice between machines that use less water but take longer, and those that use more water but take a shorter time to complete a task. Biden’s Department of Energy (DOE) took that choice away and several states fought back.

In efforts to make these critical kitchen appliances more “efficient,” such stringent standards tend to be counterproductive. That reality was recognized by the court when it simply stated that “Americans may use more energy and more water to preclean, reclean, or hand-wash” and that so-called energy-efficient appliances “do not work.”

DOE even estimated back in 2011 that “hand-washing consumes 350% more water and 140% more energy than machine-washing.”

Consumers deserve to have choices when purchasing appliances for their homes. Government should not be in the business of mandating products or regulating them to the point that it forces the most effective products out of the marketplace, stripping Americans of their right to choose among a variety of merchandise. Consumers are often left with sub-par options.

It has been found that as appliance energy use decreases, overall cycle times increase. What used to take approximately an hour to accomplish can now take up to three or four. Such long cycle times are unacceptable to most consumers. Instead of improving the lives of Americans, these regulations often create more headache and inconvenience.

Washing machines have suffered similar fates, taking a hit in effectiveness and customer satisfaction due to government meddling in “efficiency” standards. This appliance’s overall performance, expense, and life expectancy have suffered, all going in the wrong directions.

Incorporating the increasing regulatory burdens costs manufacturers billions. Those costs trickle down to consumers in the form of higher prices. The poor are always hit hardest because more affordable options are removed from the marketplace.

So not only do these regulations affect product quality and efficiency, but consumers’ pocketbooks, too.

Bureaucrats need to quit pretending that there are one-size-fits-all products that suit the needs of every American. A family with six children has different needs than a household with none. 

This is a growing trend among the mindset of government officials, and they just can’t seem to keep their hands off our appliances and everyday household products. Progressive leaders went after gas stoves last year, creating quite a stir. Air conditioners and ceiling fans have also been on their radar. They even officially banned the incandescent lightbulb.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 1975 contains a number of provisions protecting consumers from energy conservation standards that compromise product features, performance, or reliability. Or at least, it’s supposed to. It would seem those provisions have been ignored in this case. Prolonging wash cycles and decreasing a product’s effectiveness, and in many cases forcing consumers to do additional work just to get clean dishes, is the opposite of progress. And it’s all in the name of a climate agenda, where energy “savings” is a misnomer.

We need to keep pushing back against government overreach and draconian measures that cause more harm than good, that remove quality goods from the marketplace, and that are actually counterproductive to the very cause such measures claim to advance. Public officials need to leave our appliances alone and let the market dictate demand.

Consumers know best what they need, not some bureaucrat.

Last week’s ruling is a small victory in the war that has been waged against consumer freedom. It is past time for government officials to quit meddling with consumer products and let individuals choose according to their needs.


Kristen Walker is a policy analyst for the American Consumer Institute, a nonprofit education and research organization. For more information about the Institute, visit on Twitter @ConsumerPal.