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New obligations for companies selling electronic products in Germany

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by Jordan Girling, September 30th, 2020

Jordan is EC4P’s EU Compliance Team Lead where he helps companies identify their legal exposure to WEEE, Batteries and Packaging legislation and provides cost-effective and legally-robust recommendations for compliance.


If your company sells electronic products in Germany you may be affected by the newly approved Batteries Act which will come into force on 01 January 2021, along with new obligations for most sellers (i.e. ‘Producers’). Companies that batteries that are contained within electrical equipment as well as batteries sold separately will be obligated.

The new Batteries Act will mainly apply to portable batteries (i.e. any battery, button cell, battery pack or rechargeable battery that is sealed and can be hand-carried) but there are also some new obligations for ‘Producers’ of industrial batteries and automotive batteries.

The new Batteries Act introduces several changes to the existing system in Germany, including changes to definitions, changes to obligations for municipalities and distributors, and changes to operational requirements for compliance schemes. This article specifically focuses on the changes that will affect most sellers of battery-containing electronic products (and batteries that are sold separately).

Reasoning behind the publication of a new Batteries Act in Germany

Under the Batteries Act that is currently in force, the operation of a single national compliance scheme was supported and encouraged (GRS; www.grs-batterien.com). Under the Batteries Act, ‘Producers’ of portable batteries were required to join the single national compliance scheme (commonly referred to as the Joint Battery Organisation), GRS. Alternatively, ‘Producers’ could comply by operating a ‘Producers’ own take-back system’. GRS, as the Joint Battery Organisation, had exclusive operational rights, but these rights were accompanied with the obligation to ensure take back of waste portable batteries nationwide free of charge.

The increasing number of ‘Producers’ own take-back systems’ being operated by rogue ‘Producers’ created distortions in the market because all systems were allowed to operate but only GRS were obligated to ensure take back of waste portable batteries nationwide free of charge. In 2019, a large ‘Producer’ decided to leave the GRS Joint Battery Organisation to establish their own ‘Producers’ own take-back system’; as a result of this, GRS choose to begin operating as a ‘Producers’ own take-back system’, rather than the Joint Battery Organisation, to eliminate the disadvantages of operating as the Join Battery Organisation.

The new Batteries Act goes against the current approach by eliminating the concept of a Joint Battery Organisation and allowing numerous compliance schemes to operate on equal terms.

New registration requirements

From 01 January 2021, the local authority that governs the national WEEE (Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment) register, Stiftung EAR, will also begin governing the registrations of batteries ‘Producers’ and batteries compliance schemes. ‘Producers’ that are currently registered for batteries in Germany with the UBA (the national environment agency) will have until 31 December 2021 to register for batteries with Stiftung EAR. ‘Producers’ that are already registered for WEEE with Stiftung EAR will need to register for batteries via their existing Stiftung EAR online account. According to a draft Ordinance, €141 will be charged for the registration of a batteries ‘Producer’, per ‘Producer’, brand, and battery type on the registration.

The new registration requirements do not just apply to ‘Producers’ of portable batteries, but also ‘Producers’ of industrial batteries and automotive batteries. As part of the registration for industrial batteries and automotive batteries, ‘Producers’ will need to state the return options available for waste batteries (such a statement is not required for portable batteries registrations because the local compliance schemes will operate the return systems).

Higher costs for sellers of batteries that are not environmentally friendly

Under the new Batteries Act, compliance schemes must charge ‘Producers’ higher recycling fees for batteries that are not environmentally friendly. Specifically, compliance schemes must consider the following when determining the recycling fees that will be charged to members:

  • The amount of dangerous substances contained within the batteries
  • How long the batteries will last before they need to be treated or disposed of
  • Complexity related to the reuse and recycling of the batteries
  • The chemical composition of the batteries

If your company requires assistance fulfilling their obligations under the new Batteries Act, regardless of whether or not your company have already implemented batteries compliance arrangements in Germany, please contact EC4P (www.EC4P.com/contact).

 

Note: In an email to all members in September 2020, GRS indicated that it is questionable whether the new Batteries Act would come into force from 01 January 2021, as planned. However, no reasoning as to why the new Act may not come into force from this date was provided.

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