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‘Online sellers must act as producer under WEEE directive’

‘Online sellers must act as producer under WEEE directive’

More and more ecommerce companies fail to register with product responsibility organizations even though they are acting as distant sellers. This makes it hard to get hold of the responsible person and to enforce the extended producer responsibility obligations. Some voices are now saying EU states should oblige online sellers to take on the duties of producer for the products they sell on behalf on non WEEE registered companies.

This is the main conclusion drawn from a workshop organized by the WEEE Forum and EucoLight, two European trade associations that speak for e-waste producer responsibility organizations. Recently, over 80 delegates from twelve different countries met to discuss ways to tackle the growing number of online sellers and fulfilment houses that fail to be WEEE compliant. This directive was introduced by the European Commission in 2002 to address the environmental impacts of unwanted electrical and electronic equipment at end-of-life disposal.

‘Online freeriding accounts for 5-10% of sales’

Now it seems more and more companies fail to be WEEE compliant, which is referred to as freeriding. And this problem is getting bigger. Initial findings by the OECD suggest that online freeriding could account for 5 to 10 percent of all sales.

The workshop led to certain wishes aimed at the European policy makers and member states. For example, online sellers and fulfilment housed should be legally required to take on the duties of ‘producer’ for the products they sell or stock on behalf of non-WEEE registered companies. Also, the high amount of freeriding is putting compliant companies and bricks-and-mortar retailers at a material commercial disadvantage, EucoLight says.

Need for education of online operators

“80 percent of the problem is related to transactions that take place within the EU. In many cases the product will have originated from outside of the EU, but is held in stock by fulfilment houses and other online operators inside the EU. There was general agreement that tackling this first will be easier, and will solve a major part of the problem”, the organization explains.

The association also says there is some need for education of online operators. “They may not all be aware of the need to comply.”