Old eco points vs. new eco points: Where’s the savings?
The government’s eco point system was started last May as a means of promoting the sale of energy-saving home appliances by offering points for particular products that could be traded in for discounts on other products or services whose energy-saving bona fides aren’t always so apparent (high class beef?) but just goes to show that the main purpose of the system is stimulating the economy — local economies, chiefly — rather than promoting more efficient use of resources.
The system will change on April 1, mainly for televisions. The energy-saving standards that qualify for eco points will be made stricter starting April 1, which is traditionally when home electronics makers come out with their new lines of products. New TVs will have to use 33 percent less energy than last year’s standard for eco points, and as a result retailers are busy pushing their inventories of old TVs because after March 31 many of those models won’t be eligible for eco points any more.
Usually, retailers don’t worry about discontinued models so much because they can sell them at a discount that doesn’t necessarily hurt their bottom lines. This is especially true of discount stores that deal in large volumes. The problem with this new system is that the new models already have a built-in discount through the eco-point system, which means they would have to discount the discontinued (or non-eco point qualifying) models even more in order to make them competitive with new eco point-qualifying models. In most cases that would probably mean selling them at a loss.
Consequently, for those consumers who care more about saving money than saving the environment, the time to buy a new TV is before March 31, when the old TVs still qualify for eco points. Not only do you get the points, which can later be redeemed by the government, but you’ll likely get a better than normal discount from the retailer because they want to clear those models before they no longer qualify. For instance, a 46-inch screen TV will probably earn you about 36,000 points, which can be traded in for ¥36,000 in coupons, and if that model doesn’t qualify for eco points after April 1, you’ll probably get additional savings from the retailer.
If you’re adventurous and simply don’t like paying into the government’s scheme — which has more to do with giving relevant bureacracies work to do than it does with saving the planet — and hate filling out forms (the process of redeeming your points involves a bit of red tape) then you could wait until after April 1 and shop around to different electronics stores to see if they have any old TVs that they couldn’t sell beforehand. If there are any left over, they’re probably rock bottom.