A workshop hosted by Eucolight: The European Association for Lighting WEEE Compliance Schemes, gathered over 100 experts to discuss the issue of online sales of non-compliant products. The workshop concluded that solutions must be implemented to make online marketplaces responsible for products sold through their portals.
The workshop, held in Brussels on 17 October, discussed the widespread availability of products through online marketplaces that do not comply with consumer safety standards, VAT requirements, and environmental obligations. High level speakers discussed who should be legally responsible for the non-conformity of products, and how this can be introduced into European and national legislation.
The Scale of Non-compliance
Leva Vardanyan, Market Compliance Manager of the Lighting Industry Association (LIA) reported on a retail mystery shopper testing study. The initial findings of the survey revealed that a high proportion of the lighting products tested from online marketplaces have serious electrical safety risks. According to Ms Vardanyan, just removing the individual products detected from the market cannot be the solution, changes in the law and stronger tools for market surveillance are needed.
Richard Allen, Lobbyist from Retailers Against VAT Abuse Schemes (RAVAS), described the large scale of VAT avoidance through online platforms. He argued that marketplaces have a great responsibility here. Through amendments to VAT legislation, the EU and some Member States are supporting this approach and making marketplaces responsible. Germany, where there are new VAT obligations for online marketplaces if the seller is not compliant, is a good example.
Nigel Harvey, Chief Executive of Recolight described a study undertaken by the WEEE Scheme Forum, to check the WEEE compliance of products sold through online marketplaces. This showed that 54% of power tools, 76% of LED light bulbs, and 88% of fitness watches did not comply.
Commenting on the study, Nigel Harvey said “Evidence shows there is large scale WEEE non-compliance sales through online marketplaces. High street retailers have, for many years, checked the compliance of equipment producers. Online marketplace operators could – and should – do the same. There can be no excuse for knowingly aiding the sale of products that break the law.”
Monika Romenska, Regulatory & Public Affairs Manager, of the Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance for Packaging and Packaging waste (EXPRA), added “Distance sales already represent up to 20 – 30 per cent of the market across various waste streams in certain Member States. By avoiding paying for their collection and reprocessing costs, these sales distort the market: they impose an unfair cost on compliant producers, thus rendering these – mostly local companies – less competitive.”
The importance of greater consumer education was also mentioned. Triin Saag, of the European eCommerce & Omni-Channel Trade Association (EMOTA) argued for example, that “product safety is a two-way street where consumers should also be educated.”
Views from the Commission
Hans Ingels of DG Growth, speaking about the Goods Package, highlighted three principles for Member States to counteract an over-extended presence of non-compliant products on the market “1) working with businesses to prevent non-compliances instead of only policing the market; 2) fit-for purpose tools to check online sales of products and follow-up; and 3) improved cooperation between authorities across the EU.”
Bettina Lorz, of DG Environment, supported coordinate enforcement actions at supra national/ national level. She argued that customs, tax and enforcement officials should work in a joined-up fashion with the environmental authorities on product regulation and enforcement: The Goods Package could be a good opportunity for implement this kind of synergy.
Next steps – online marketplaces must take responsibility Summarizing the discussions, Marc Guiraud, Secretary General of EucoLight, stated “It is urgent for policy makers and online marketplaces to take action to address non-compliance of products sold online. Member States are already starting to implement this at a national level“.
To view the video of the workshop, follow this link. Workshop Video
Recolight is the leading UK WEEE compliance scheme for the lighting industry, taking on responsibility for its members’ WEEE compliance, giving their customers access to the UK’s most comprehensive free lamp collection and recycling service, and helping to ensure that as many lamps as possible are kept out of landfill.
Recolight’s comprehensive offering makes it the preferred WEEE scheme for the lighting industry, setting the standard for the sector. It is the only WEEE compliance scheme in the UK to provide integrated Lamp and Luminaire collection and recycling. It has the biggest UK-wide network of collection points for all WEEE lighting. As a result, since its founding in 2007, Recolight has funded the recycling of over 300 million lamps, LEDs and luminaires, more than all other UK WEEE schemes put together.
In 2012, Recolight won “Recycling and Waste Management Business of the Year” at the National Recycling Awards and Nigel Harvey, Recolight’s CEO, was recognised as LUX Person of the Year.