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article imageSamsung accused of 'having its own Volkswagen scandal' with TVs

By James Walker     Oct 2, 2015 in Technology
An independent report has accused Samsung of doctoring energy efficiency tests for televisions in a similar manner to Volkswagen's cheating of diesel emissions tests. Samsung denies the claims which say the TVs can detect when they are being tested.
The Guardian reports independent European lab tests found that Samsung TVs seem to consume more energy in the living room than they do in official test conditions. Inevitably, comparisons have been drawn with the scandal that has unfolded over the past week at German car manufacturer Volkswagen.
The European Union-funded research group ComplianTV has alleged that Samsung's TVs are capable of detecting test situations and can intelligently switch to a lower power mode. A report written in February this year said: "The laboratories observed different TV behaviors during the measurements and this raised the possibility of the TV's detecting a test procedure and adapting their power consumption accordingly. Such phenomenon was not proven within the ComplianTV test, but some tested TVs gave the impression that they detected a test situation."
There is currently no suggestion that Samsung has acted illegally during European test procedures. It is the world's largest manufacturer of TVs and has now publicly denied that its products are designed to cheat efficiency tests.
ComplianTV noted that Samsung's "motion lighting" feature is the likely cause of the deviations. The feature intelligently reduces display brightness and power consumption when it detects fast-moving motion in the content it is displaying. As some of the footage used under international electrotechnical commission (IEC) test conditions fits this criteria, the panels automatically dim themselves during the tests and use less power.
This means it's possible the EU tests have reported Samsung TVs as being more energy efficient than they are in real use. The readings are valid because Motion Lighting is enabled out-of-the-box on Samsung TVs and there is no clear legislation that says such features should be disabled during testing.
Several European states have already complained about this emerging problem. The Swedish Energy Agency penned a letter to the European Commission this year in which it wrote it had come across televisions capable of detecting the IEC film used during testing. They then automatically dimmed the display to reduce energy consumption. The manufacturer's identity was not revealed.
The European Commission outlined its plans to explicitly outlaw the use of "defeat devices" in energy efficiency tests in a response to the Guardian: "The commission is proposing specific text to clarify that [the use of defeat devices] is illegal and that products found to behave differently under test conditions cannot be considered compliant. The commission will investigate whether this practice is used in other product sectors."
Although it currently appears as though Samsung's Motion Lighting was not designed to cheat tests, research groups have warned Europe that it would not be too difficult for TV manufacturers to begin building software with this purpose in mind. If that happened then other products would be able to begin bypassing legislation in a very similar manner to Volkswagen's test cheating with its diesel engines.
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