Pact covers set-top boxes

Environmental advocates, government regulators and the cable and satellite television industry have reached a landmark agreement to save an estimated $1 billion a year in energy costs by making TV set-top boxes more efficient.

The voluntary agreement aims to make an estimated 90 million boxes in homes as much as 45% more energy-efficient by 2017. The boxes are considered energy hogs because they always are on, even when the television is turned off.

The upgraded boxes could save enough power to run 700,000 homes, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, one of the deal brokers.


“It’s extremely significant when household names like Comcast, Motorola, DirecTV and AT&T; all acknowledge that their TV set-top boxes are using billions of dollars’ worth of electricity each year,” said Noah Horowitz, a senior scientist at the council’s San Francisco office.

The Consumer Electronics Assn. long has said it preferred voluntary agreements rather than mandates to quickly boost efficiency and give customers improved products.

“The expanded, voluntary set-top box energy-conservation agreement

Both the U.S. Energy Department and the California Energy Commission have been working on their own proposed regulations. The energy commission said it would monitor the future energy savings before deciding whether there’s a need for mandatory standards.


Happy motoring

Watch your driving beginning Wednesday.

A raft of new laws for motorists take effect in 2014, the California Department of Motor Vehicles warns.

Among the new regulations are the Three Feet for Safety Act, which mandates that a driver passing a bicycle stay at least three feet from the two-wheeler.

A law gives owners of hybrid, electric and other low- or no-emission vehicles an additional five years to drive in high-occupancy freeway lanes even if only one person is on board.

Under another law, teens could be cited for using smartphones while driving even when the device is connected to hands-free systems.


Payday loans

After two years of enforcement actions, the state Department of Business Oversight has settled with payday loan company TIOR Capitol.

The Folsom, Calif., company agreed to effectively forfeit $1 million in outstanding loans that borrowers got over the Internet. It also said it would cease violating California law by making loans without having a state license, and it agreed to pay $100,000 in penalties, the department said.

TIOR Capitol has stopped all lending activity in California. TIOR officials could not be reached for comment, but in reaching the settlement the firm did not admit wrongdoing.


Twitter: @MarcLifsher