The non-compliance (‘free-riding’) of companies selling electronic products online is of growing concern across Europe and is receiving much attention across the industry. The issue of free-riding has a huge impact on how producer responsibility regulations can manage waste.
Essentially, if online sellers do not implement compliance arrangements, the compliance fees paid by sellers that have implemented compliance arrangements are unfairly high. The fees charged to registered producers typically correspond with the amount of waste that needs to be processed, the cost to treat the waste, and the amount of companies registered. Thus, if not all sellers are registered, the sellers that are registered are providing for higher proportions of waste than they are placing on the market.
WEEE Forum: ‘Successfully countering online free-riders’
On 24 April 2019, the WEEE Forum, an organisation representing WEEE compliance schemes across Europe, published a report titled ‘Successfully countering online free-riders
’. The report was published in response to a recent consultation and the European Commissions eagerness to identify solutions to free-riding. The report proposes three main options to solve the problem:
- Updated regulatory measures, at an EU and/or Member State level
- Better enforcement and more cooperation between compliance schemes to identify free-riders
- Awareness campaigns to educate online sellers about their obligations
Other recent industry activity addressing free-riding
The topic of free-riding from online sellers is very dominant in the industry. Some other examples of recent activity are provided below:
- In March 2019, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a report examining the scale of free-riding from online sellers of electrical products. As EC4P reported in August of last year, the OECD recommends a series of measures to tackle free-riding, including measures to strengthen enforcement with one suggestion to encourage registered producers and compliance schemes to report free-riders.
- OECD estimate that free-riding from online sellers accounts for approximately 5% - 10% of all electronic product sales. The SENS compliance scheme in Switzerland estimate that approximately 5% of electronic products sold in Switzerland are non-compliant.
- A UK Waste Strategy was published in December 2018 to implement a 25-year plan for environmental improvement. The strategy mentions that proposed regulation reviews may lead to the introduction of measures to tackle free-riding associated with online sellers.
- In November 2018, five large environmental NGO’s called on the German Ministers of Economy and the Environment to act against online free-riders; the letter published by the NGO’s is publicly available.
- During a seminar hosted by Eucolight, the European association for lighting WEEE compliance schemes, many industry associates highlighted the issues caused by free-riding from online sellers (Source: Materials Recycling World).
Seven years on from the publication of the WEEE Recast Directive, it seems as if enforcement is becoming much stricter. For help with your companies WEEE compliance, please contact EC4P