What does the term “WEEE Directive” mean?
Directive 2012/19/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 4 July 2012 on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) serves as the framework for the national implementation by the EU member states.
Was the WEEE Directive implemented identically in all EU Member States?
No. The WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Directive was transposed into national law in the respective EU member states in different ways. All kinds of electrical and electronic equipment are affected: in short, every device that needs electricity, including battery-powered devices (see also: “What is classified as electrical and/or electronic equipment?”).
Who is affected by the WEEE Directive?
Basically, anyone who places electrical and electronic equipment on the market for the first time, whether delivered to private households, businesses or public bodies, can be held liable. This includes manufacturers, distributors – including online stores and mail order companies – and importers.
What does producer responsibility include according to the WEEE Directive?
Full recognition of producer responsibility is an obligation. This means that as a producer of electrical and electronic equipment, you remain responsible for the complete lifecycle of your products from production to take-back, recycling and final disposal.
Who is the producer?
According to the WEEE Directive, you are classed as a producer if you …
- Place equipment on the market that you have manufactured under your own name and brand in an EU country for the first time (manufacturer)
- Place equipment on the market from another manufacturer under your own name or your own brand in an EU country for the first time (reseller)
- Place equipment on the market from a third country in an EU country for the first time (importer)
- Are established outside the country in which you distribute, and provide equipment to consumers using distance sales communication (distance seller; through online stores and mail order companies)
Placing on the market means making a product available within the territory of a member state on a professional basis for the first time.
What is an authorised representative according to the WEEE Directive, and who needs one?
Based on the WEEE Directive, EU member states have transposed into national legislation that the appointment of an authorised representative is required if a producer places electrical and/or electronic equipment onto another EU country’s market from abroad (e.g. as an online trader), and/or has no registered physical presence in the country in question.
The authorised representative must have a legal entity in the respective country and assumes full responsibility for the foreign producer’s WEEE obligations. The appointment of an authorised representative by a foreign producer is required if the producer offers his devices directly to the end customer in the relevant country , e.g. by means of distance selling/online trading. The transfer of the producers’ obligations to an authorised representative is usually not accepted by the national authorities if the producer has a physical presence in the country or if the products are placed on the market by resellers/distributors.
What is classified as electrical and/or electronic equipment?
According to the WEEE Directive, electrical and electronic equipment includes all appliances or devices designed for use with AC voltage not exceeding 1000 volts, or DC voltage not exceeding 1500 volts, and which are dependent on electrical currents or electromagnetic fields in order to work properly.
These include devices which are used for generation, transfer and measurement of electrical currents and electromagnetic fields.
Does every country issue a WEEE registration number to a producer?
No. In some countries the registration is confirmed in different ways, for example by sending a letter of confirmation or listing the producer in an online register.
Why are the requirements of the WEEE, battery and packaging directives in each country of Europe individually and separately to be met by the manufacturers?
The directives of the European Community set targets, formulate minimum targets and determine when these have to be transposed into national law. National concerns can therefore be taken into account. However, the individual implementation of the guidelines for WEEE, batteries and packaging also leads to country-specific processes and requirements. Consequently a unified pan-European solution for producers, e.g. regarding registration, is impossible.
What is the difference between a European Regulation and a European Directive?
An EU regulation is a binding legal act in all parts. It is the same in all EU member states and will be fully effective there by the date indicated.
An EU directive, on the other hand, is a legal act that sets out an objective to be achieved by all EU countries. However, it is up to the individual countries to adopt their own legislation to achieve this goal.
EU acts such as EU directives or EU regulations are always drafted and adopted jointly by all member states.
What sets a producer apart from a distributor?
Within the meaning of the WEEE Directive, the obligations of manufacturers and distributors are largely identical (see “Who is a producer?”). They differ only in the implementation of the take-back obligation.
I only sell to resellers/distributors. Am I affected by the WEEE Directive?
Yes, unless the dealer explicitly agrees to take over the obligations of the WEEE Directive such as registration, reporting, take-back etc.
Do I have to open a subsidiary in every country I sell electrical appliances into?
No, not necessarily. If a manufacturer does not have a registered office in the country in question, he either has to appoint a local authorised representative in writing who will take over all the obligations under the WEEE Directive, or his distributors have to assume full responsibility as per the national legislation. The need to appoint an authorised representative also depends on the sales method of the equipment. Due to the individual implementation of the WEEE Directive in the different member states, the possibility or obligation to appoint an authorised representative should be individually examined.
(see also “What is an authorised representative according to the WEEE Directive, and who needs one?”)
What is the difference between a device and a component?
The manufacturer’s obligation under the WEEE Directive relates to electrical and electronic equipment. The components installed in it are not considered separately. However, if individual components are offered to private or commercial customers for direct use, they are generally considered a device and fall within the scope of the WEEE Directive.
What happens to a producer if he is not registered resp. does not offer a mandatory take-back and recycling solution?
If a producer does not meet his obligations originating from the national implementation of the WEEE Directive, this is considered a statutory violation of the respective legislation. The same applies if a producer does not completely or correctly meet his obligations. Example: In Germany the fine for such an offence is up to 100.000€ per case.
What are the obligations when putting a large-scale fixed installation (“LSFI”) on the market or when single devices are installed into LSFI?
Large-scale fixed installations are a large-size combination of several types of devices. LSFI do not fall within the scope of the WEEE Directive. However, the WEEE Directive applies to standard devices installed in LSFI that were not specifically designed for use in a LSFI.
Are my devices in scope of the WEEE Directive?
Some devices and use cases are excluded from the WEEE Directive. However, this has to be evaluated on a case by case basis.
Do I have to register batteries if I only sell brand-name batteries as part of my devices?
Generally batteries are not considered part of a device no matter if they are incorporated or just added to the device. According to the Battery Directive, batteries and accumulators are to be registered separately. The requirement to register batteries does not apply if the supplier of the batteries/ accumulators already registered them in the respective country and provides proof thereof.
What type of packaging has to be licensed by online sellers?
In addition to the product packaging, the online seller is required to license the transport packaging.
Are there exceptions to registration obligations e.g. when only selling minor quantities in a country?
According to the WEEE requirements, all producers are required to register in each EU country where they put electrical or electronic equipment on the market, irrelevant of the quantity they place on the market.
Regarding the Packaging and the Battery Directive, in some countries producers only have obligations if they place more than a defined minimum of quantities on the market.
How long does a producer registration take?
Depending on the respective EU country, the registration procedure takes from a few days up to several months. Submission of incorrect or incomplete registration documents may cause a delay in the process additionally.
Can I already sell devices even if my registration request has not been completely processed and confirmed?
No. You may only start offering and selling devices after receiving the registration confirmation from the respective authority. In case you already sell devices prior to being fully registered, see also question “What happens to a producer if he is not registered resp. does not offer a mandatory take-back and recycling solution?”
What are the labelling requirements for batteries, packaging and electric devices?
The labelling of batteries and accumulators is regulated in the Battery Directive. Batteries and accumulators have to be labelled with the “crossed out wheeled bin”. In case of very small batteries, the label may be printed on the packaging instead.
In addition, the capacity of portable batteries and automotive batteries has to be indicated.
Batteries, accumulators and button cells containing more than 0,0005 % mercury, more than 0,002 % cadmium or more than 0,004 % lead additionally have to be labelled with the respective symbol of the chemical element (Hg, Cd or Pb). Type and position of this label is defined as well.
On January 28th, 1997 with Commission Decision 97/129/EC, the EU has defined a labelling system for packaging material. The labels from this EU decision are currently not mandatory. Generally other material labels than defined in the EU decision are prohibited though. A directive of the EU making the labelling obligatory has yet to be passed.
Electrical and electronic devices have to be permanently labelled with the producer name (brand) and the date they were placed on the market. In addition they have to be labelled with the “crossed out wheeled bin”.