Retailers will be forced to implement more costly changes to their businesses when new legislation outlawing the production of low-voltage halogen bulbs comes into force next year.

The European Commission plans to ban the production of low-voltage halogens from 2013 as part of the same Ecodesign legislation that led to the controversial phasing out of incandescent bulbs.

Under the plans, 12V MR16 lamps, described by lighting suppliers as the “backbone of retail lighting”, will be phased out from next year, leaving retailers with no choice but to install more costly alternatives.

The plans have attracted widespread criticism from retailers, lighting suppliers and the wider business community.

Eco-monitor managing director Brian O’Hagan slammed the move as “more bonkers energy-saving legislation” that does not consider the needs or struggles of small businesses.

The plans could also prompt retailers to stockpile the old-style halogen bulbs, leading prices of these to soar, he added.

Simon Leggett, managing director of LED specialists OCG Lighting, also spoke out against the plans, despite the fact his company stands to gain from the legislation. “The intention to encourage widespread adoption of energy-efficient lighting is right, but the impact on businesses has to be taken into account,” he said. “Pressure must be matched by support and proper communication around the benefits of investing in long-life, maintenance-free lighting.”

He added: “LEDs use less than a fifth of the energy consumed by halogens and boast a product lifetime up to 10 times longer. But retailers need to understand that argument before they can be expected to accept mandatory change,” he said.

Bulbs for standard MR16 halogen lights cost about £2.50, while energy-saving alternatives such as LEDs can cost up to £25.

An official draft proposal of the legislation is expected this month.