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OECD report recognises online WEEE 'free-riding' challenge

A report recognising the issue of non-compliance with waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) regulations through online marketplaces has been welcomed by Eucolight, the voice of European WEEE lighting compliance schemes.

Eucolight said that recognising the challenge of so-called ‘free-riding’ faced by producer compliance schemes, outlined in the report, was the first step to addressing the problem.

The OECD report Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) and the impact of online sales acknowledges that online sales platforms are creating free-riding opportunities where producers and sellers avoid obligations and costs.

The report said that free-riding was mostly unintentional, and due to a lack of information and the administrative complexity of being compliant.

It said available information indicates that the scale of the issue is likely to be between 5% and 10% of the OECD electrical and electronic equipment (EEE) market. It added that a recent WEEE Forum survey indicated that smaller EEE devices, including lamps, were the most likely to be affected by free-riding.

A number of measures to help tackle the problem were recommended in the report. These include putting the ability to prosecute a company for illegal action in another country/territory into WEEE legislation, simplification and harmonisation of extended producer responsibility regulation, and requiring websites selling EEE under their own name to show their producer responsibility organisation registration details.

EucoLight said that it endorsed the recommendation to define multi-seller online platforms as ‘producers’ of the products that they list from non-registered companies and that transit through their fulfilment houses.

It said it had been promoting policy responses to tackle WEEE non-compliance and was facilitating the debate among stakeholders to identify solutions.

Marc Guiraud, EucoLight secretary general, said that WEEE schemes have been key in increasing recycling and collection rates, but producers selling online imposed an unfair burden on the rest of the system and on compliant producers.

Nigel Harvey, EucoLight vice-president and Recolight chief executive, said: “The OECD report confirms the large scale of WEEE non-compliance through online marketplaces and fulfilment houses. There is an urgent need for regulatory change. The VAT system has been amended to make online fulfilment houses jointly liable for VAT payments for any product they hold in stock in the UK. A similar approach is now needed for WEEE.”

In May Defra said it would call online trading platforms to a meeting to work out how to secure better compliance with WEEE rules. It followed concerns raised last year by Recolight that one-fifth of lamps sold online were non-compliant with WEEE regulations.

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