On 9 December, over 150 participants attended a webinar organised by EucoLight, the European Association of lighting WEEE compliance scheme. The theme was “National approaches to prevent non-compliant sales through online marketplaces – Extended producer responsibility free riding”. Attendees included representatives from ten Member State national authorities, the European institutions, and many other stakeholders.
The exceptionally high level of product sold through online marketplaces that is not compliant with extended producer responsibility legislation is well established. The Covid-19 pandemic has further exacerbated the problem, as the growth in online sales has accelerated.
The participants heard of the scale and nature of the issue and received an overview of legislative and non-legislative solutions being considered.
EucoLight was delighted to hear of the progress made by some Member States, notably France and Germany which will put legislation in place to tackle the problem. In both cases, the national solutions make online marketplaces and fulfilment service providers liable. That liability is either to take on the responsibility of non-compliant sellers or to prevent the sales of non-compliant sellers. EucoLight supports both approaches.
The recently adopted French law states that, unless the online marketplace facilitating distance sales has proof that the seller has already fulfilled its EPR obligations, it is the marketplace that must fulfil the seller’s EPR obligations. And a legal study for Germany would oblige marketplaces and fulfilment services to only sell product from registered producers.
Attendees also heard from LightingEurope, whose Secretary General said: “What’s illegal offline should be illegal online. Our obligations towards the planet do not stop when we sell or buy online.”
When non-compliant product is supplied, the sellers do not support the collection and recycling efforts required by European legislation. This puts the sustainability of EPR schemes at risk, creates unfair competition for compliant companies, and distorts the internal market. It also creates environmental risks. The majority of the problem arises from the numerous sellers located outside of the EU, for which there is no responsible person in the EU.
The meeting also heard proposals from the E-commerce sector itself, but these attracted a number of criticisms. Panellists were concerned that the proposals would not be enforceable, because they left liability with the seller, not the marketplace. Concerns were also expressed that making compliance through marketplaces simpler would transfer more market power to online marketplaces.
EucoLight encourages other Member States to follow the example set by France and Germany, in putting in place legislative solutions to control online freeriding, pending progress with a workable harmonised European solution.
To know more about was presented a link to the video recording can be replayed.