The emissions scandal at Volkswagen was the latest instance in the auto industry’s long history of skirting safety or environmental rules, with regulators now vowing to establish more stringent tests.
Makers of consumer appliances and electronics have gone down a similar path, but tight federal standards and frequent testing have made it harder for manufacturers to skirt the rules.
Still, consumer groups and advocates said regulators must remain vigilant because the pace of technological change and innovation often exceeds the speed at which federal standards can be established. Common household items are packed with more electronics than ever, adding lots of features, but also providing the possibility of deceit.
Last week, for instance, Samsung denied that some of its high-definition televisions used less energy during testing conditions than in real-life use. This came after a European Union-financed laboratory raised questions about whether a feature known as “motion lighting” was intended to game energy efficiency tests.
Samsung said the technology, which dimmed the screen’s brightness in some circumstances, was an “out-of-the-box feature” that remained turned on whether at home or during tests. The feature “is not a test-cheat” and helps save energy, the company said in a statement posted online.
Noah Horowitz, an energy efficiency expert at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that advanced controls and other types of electronics in many consumer devices and appliances increased the potential for mischief by manufacturers.