A new EU regulation means that online fulfilment houses will be required to take responsibility for compliance documentation, if there is no appointed manufacturers’ representative.
The “Regulation on market surveillance and compliance of products” requires companies to appoint an economic operator in the EU. The economic operator must verify that compliance documentation has been prepared and is available for market surveillance authorities.
Impact on producers
Crucially, the regulation applies to all producers of relevant products, including those located outside the EU. If the producer is based in the EU, they are regarded, logically, as the economic operator. But if the producer is not located in the EU, and then does not appoint an importer or authorised representative to perform this role, then the responsibility automatically falls to an online marketplace or fulfilment house, where one is involved in arranging the transaction.
Scope of the regulation
The regulation applies to an exceptionally wide range of legislation affecting electrical products, including the Low Voltage and Machinery Directives, and RoHS/REACH. It also includes compliance with extended producer responsibility directives on WEEE, packaging and batteries. The regulation enters into force in July 2021.
A response to sustained pressure
Commenting on the news, Recolight Chief Executive Nigel Harvey said: “It is great to see online marketplaces and fulfilment houses at last being held to account where non-compliant product is sold through their platforms. For too long, some have avoided tackling the issue, even when non-compliance has been brought to their attention. We are delighted that the Commission and Member States have responded positively to the sustained campaign from Recolight and our European Trade Association, EucoLight to raise awareness of the problem.”
UK system preferred
He added: “Although an improvement, the proposed system is not watertight. UK enforcement bodies could still struggle to take action against an appointed economic operator based, for example, in certain East European countries. So, when it comes to tackling the online non-compliance of product with WEEE, packaging and batteries, we very much prefer the UK Government’s approach, as outlined in their packaging regulations consultation. That is to make the online marketplace responsible for the compliance of all product for which it facilitates the import into the UK. It is simpler to enforce, and less burdensome for producers based outside the EU.”
Impact of Brexit
“Clearly, we do not know if the UK Government will implement the requirements of the new regulation if/when Brexit takes place. But it certainly becomes even more important to tackle online non-compliance soon, to avoid the risk of the UK becoming a dumping ground, once the EU starts to address the issue in 2021.”