European governments look to increase RoHS enforcement

21 October 2008

European governments look set to increase RoHS enforcement

The governments of EU countries are reportedly building plans to work together to better enforce the RoHS regulations in Europe that ban hazardous substances from electrical and other household and commercial products.

At a recent international forum in Washington DC, authorities responsible for RoHS in EU countries flagged an intention to begin working together informally, with more structured co-operation agreements to be progressed at the next EU enforcement network meeting in the Netherlands in November.

Since RoHS laws came into effect in July 2006, governments have been criticised for a lack of effective monitoring to enforce compliance with the laws. It has even been suggested that in some countries, companies have been encouraged to continue selling products with hazardous substances over allowable limits.

Government bodies across Europe now plan to improve the effectiveness of their RoHS monitoring and resources dedicated to it by adopting a cross-border model, following successful efforts by Nordic countries.

In 2007, the Nordic countries united their RoHS programmes and increased the depth of monitoring and reporting of non-compliances by sharing data across borders.

The Nordic countries’ approach was to divide the industries and products covered by RoHS between them so that each focused in depth on a dedicated industry; and then this data was shared. It is understood that the wider EU countries are likely to consider the same approach.

Torben Norlem, Health and Environment Chief Counsel at Intertek (a provider of services to governments and companies that monitors and tests for RoHS) said: “Many suppliers sell products in multiple European countries. If the EU enforcement authorities share more data between them, they can better identify non-compliant products across all countries and utilise their available resources collectively.” The reporting of non-compliances by EU governments is also increasing and new cross-border RoHS monitoring collaborations are likely see more reporting on the outcome of their activities annually. Sweden moved to survey and report on 152 electronic products and non-compliances this year. Reporting of non-compliances further discourages companies from breaching laws, by increasing the damage to their brand, consequent loss of sales, goodwill and market share from the negative exposure. “EU governments are also looking at more international collaboration with local-RoHS monitoring authorities in China and the United States. Many products sold in Europe are that of companies trading worldwide, so there is scope for more collaboration internationally,” added Norlem.

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