Non-compliant waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) bought at online marketplaces are allowing unscrupulous retailers to sell unsafe equipment and evade recycling costs.
The message came from a seminar hosted by Eucolight, the European association for lighting WEEE compliance schemes, which concluded that action must be taken to make online marketplaces responsible for products sold through their portals.
There were also issues with products bought online that failed to meet safety standards, VAT requirements and environmental obligations.
Lighting Industry Association market compliance manager Leva Vardanyan reported that a ’mystery shopper’ exercise had revealed that a high proportion of lighting products sold via online marketplaces had serious electrical safety risks.
Recolight chief executive Nigel Harvey said a study by the WEEE Scheme Forum had found that 54% of power tools, 76% of LED lightbulbs and 88% of fitness watches did not comply.
He 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 and public affairs manager of the Extended Producer Responsibility Alliance for Packaging and Packaging Waste, said that online sales accounted for 20-30% of the market across various waste streams: “By avoiding paying for their collection and reprocessing costs, these sales distort the market. They impose an unfair cost on compliant producers, rendering these – mostly local companies – less competitive.”
Hans Ingels of the European Commission’s directorate for growth called on member states to work with businesses to prevent non-compliance instead of only policing the market, and to develop tools to check online sales of products and follow-up.