On 13 September over 80 delegates from across 12 different countries met to discuss ways to tackle the growing number of online market places that fail to be WEEE compliant with the EEE regulations. This is referred to as freeriding.

The introductory speaker Peter Börkey of the OECD presented initial findings suggesting that online freeriding could account for 5-10% of all sales.

EucoLight and WEEE Forum main takeaways from the workshop are that European policy makers and Member States should consider:
• That online sellers and fulfilment houses should be legally required to take on the duties of “producer” under the WEEE directive for the product they sell or stock on behalf of non WEEE registered companies.

• That the concept of Authorised Representative (AR) could help to address the problem, but needs further analysis to ensure it is appropriate, and that liabilities of the AR are adequately defined.

The meeting also reached many other important conclusions:
• The huge scale of free riding puts compliant companies, and “bricks and mortar” retailers at a material commercial disadvantage.

• 80% 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.

• Some solutions could include improved codes of conduct in online operators, but other solutions may require tougher measures through the strict enforcement of the existing law.

• More data is needed to quantify the full scale of the problem.

• There is some need for education of online operators, who may not all be aware of the need to comply.

• Certification of online operators that do verify the compliance of the product they sell could help consumers to exercise an informed choice.

The workshop contributors included Maria Banti and Birgit Snoeren (European Commission), Nigel Harvey (EucoLight), Christian Ludwig (WEEE Europe), Jonathan Perry (Dell), Michael Adams (Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland), Annegret Mayer (E-commerce Europe) and Alexander Goldberg (European WEEE Registers Network).

Commenting on the outcomes of the workshop, WEEE Forum Secretary General Pascal Leroy said, “We are delighted that this topic raised such a high level of interest and that the key recommendations have real potential to address this serious problem.”

EucoLight Secretary General Marc Guiraud added “The process has started; the ideas are on the table. Now we need to see action on both legislation and enforcement.”