European RoHS Enforcement Explained Print E-mail
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Written by Mike Buetow   
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 20:26

A series of workshops next month on compliance with RoHS and other directives will help US companies looking to break into the European market.

A trio of trade groups – ITI, IPC and SEMI – in June will host UK environmental regulators Steve Andrews from the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and Chris Smith and Matthew Bignell from the National Measurement Office for a series of private sector seminars on product policy and compliance. The speakers will provide implementation and enforcement updates on a range of European Union regulatory approaches, including RoHS, WEEE, REACH and the ErP Directives. Other company environmental professionals will discuss sector compliance strategies, and subject exports will cover US, Canadian, Asian and Latin America developments and conflict minerals issues. They will be joined by legal, technical and compliance experts from industry, law firms and consultants. The series will take place June 6 in Round Rock, TX; June 10 in Santa Clara, CA; and June 12 in Schaumburg, IL.

One of the featured presenters, Chris Smith, Technical Manager, Enforcement Authority in the UK, spoke with Mike Buetow by phone on May 7.

CA: What’s the latest with regard to the RoHS Directive?
CS:
Well, as you know, the Directive originally went into effect on July 1, 2006. We have just completed the recast process, in which the original directive was reviewed, and specific parts looked at to make it a more modern piece of legislation. The UK Department of Business is the Policy lead. They negotiate authority over the new Directive. We are the enforcement authority for the UK.

CA: And what are the main developments?
CS:
Europe is bringing it much closer to the common model for European regulations. Most product-based regulations have a number of administrative processes. The original Directive – RoHS 1 – was not closely tied to the framework for this type of legislation. At that time, in 2002, the ties between safety and environment were not that close. Now they are seen as more of a common delivery.

The main changes are compliance marking, declarations of conformity, and processes around demonstration and compliance. RoHS 2 has been expanded to cover not only a product’s first entry into the EU, but also the life of that product in the supply chain, from manufacturing, import, through to when it is sold to the end-user, including in business-to-business transaction or a retail outlet.

There are no changes to the main technical requirements such as what is allowed, but the scope has been expanded until 2019, when it becomes an open scope.

At July 23, 2019, the point of the open scope, everything will be in scope, unless there is a reason for it to be out. There are also a number of phase-in dates associated with monitoring and control of medical instruments.

CA: Why the closer ties between environment and safety?
CS:
My understanding is, when this was negotiated in 2002, there was safety legislation that was clearly covered by the Compliance Marking and other legislation that was not covered. Since then, several other legislations, such as Eco-Design for energy, have come under the Compliance Marking regiment. Compliance was moved from something that was purely for safety to cover products appropriate to be placed on the European market.

CA: Would you foresee any sectors remaining outside the scope?
CS:
Motor transport is outside, but ground-based equipment that is part of infrastructure is already inside. Most vehicles will remain out of scope. Other equipment is likely to come into scope. It is very difficult to point at sectors and say, “This is out of scope,” because some are and some aren’t, even now. For example, medical is in scope as it applies to human instruments. But medical for veterinary purposes is not out of scope.

The military exclusion continues under RoHS 2, even past 2019. That includes munitions and arms and equipment essential for the security of the State. The exclusion for vehicles, including large scale industrial tools and transport networks, and railway networks that support trains likely to remain.

From July 2014, monitoring and control and medical will be included. From 2016 in-vitro medical and 2017 industrial monitoring and control. Active implanted medical instruments like pacemakers will continue to be excluded.

CA: How is US legislation such as that for Conflict Minerals influencing the European Directives?
CS:
I understand Conflict Minerals is a priority for the USA, and the USA is a little ahead of Europe because it is already legislated. The EC is beginning to look at Conflict Minerals. RoHS has a different agenda. If I were to crystal ball gaze, I could see parallel legislation. But as a huge caveat on this, it is not an area I’m involved in at the moment.

CA: There seems to be a difference between the US and Europe in how legislation is passed. Here, if a bill is disputed, it becomes a legal issue and the courts decide. Judging by WEEE and RoHS, Europe doesn’t appear to have the same reflexive litigious response.
CS:
We certainly have a different legal construct in Europe versus the USA. Within Europe, it tends to be more task-focused. An issue is identified, researched and is negotiated and developed around that. As the EU identifies new areas to regulate, such as perhaps Conflict Minerals, it will be investigated and policy decisions made based on those investigations. 

CA: Does enforcement vary from country to country across Europe?
CS:
If you take a piece of legislation such as RoHS, it’s raised as a Directive. Each Member State raises its own legislation. RoHS is entered into each Member States’ laws.… In the UK we have our own law and put our own legal system around it as a framework: How will the law be applied? What due diligence defense do we have? Other Member States may not. So you have one RoHS Directive, with the same technical requirements, but 27 different pieces of legislation with different administrative requirements. There’s a range of fines, sanctions, approaches to deliver those sanctions. So yes, they are different, and there’s a reason for them being different. We in the UK have a suite of administrative sanctions, an action to serve notice that, if they can’t show compliance, we won’t let them continue selling it. Our approach to enforcement is to engage to enforce compliance, rather than be like a traffic officer where, if [the offender] can afford to pay the ticket, they pay it and don’t care about it. We’d rather engage and find the appropriate measures or approach so that they become more compliant. We work on outcomes and toward moving the UK to a more continually compliant industry year-on-year.

CA: Is there still a lot of pushback from industry on some of these rules?
CS:
Certainly there’s some level of pushback … some areas that are more challenging for market sectors, and challenges the market sectors have to make. Some market sectors that were not in RoHS 1 and now in RoHS 2 are challenging whether they should be included in the future.
In terms of the market approach, we have worked quite hard to strike a balance between stick and carrot. Where using the more cooperative tools has been ineffective, we’ve been able to fall back on the more robust ones.

When we need to be the organization that needs to be more robust, certainly we have that capability and do use it when we need to. We’ve typically found we’ve had very good relationships with large parts of the industry. We do a lot of work with trade associations. We go to a lot of conferences. The feedback we’ve received suggests business likes the way we do it.

CA: You and some colleagues will be speaking at the ITI environmental compliance seminars in the US: Round Rock, TX, on June 6, Santa Clara, CA, on June 10 and Schaumburg, IL, on June 12. What’s the benefit to the UK government to participate?
CS:
There’s a number of advantages … focused on our primary principles. Enforcement is about what the government does to generate compliance. If I come over to the USA, and we deliver an education package, we help US companies understand how to be compliant and the potential pitfalls, and they walk away more educated, send that info back to their companies, and I can probably do as much good by spending two weeks in the USA educating those companies trying to be compliant as we could do with 50 inspections. By supporting the industry to be more compliant, we are doing good enforcement.
The other main objective and advantage is while most Member States placed this in their environmental departments, we placed it in our Department of Business. As such, we have a business focus. We are promoting a good level of compliance, but we also support the business objectives of the companies doing business in the UK.

CA: And what’s the benefit to the US companies?
CS:
I consider this an opportunity for US business to gain an education package to understanding from the horse’s mouth what’s going on and where it’s happening. This is important for companies looking to gain a stronger understanding and looking at Europe as a valuable market to be in or break into, that they have the knowledge base needed to operate in that market. This can be useful to those I have spoken to (before), but equally, I would love to reach people I haven’t spoken to before so they can gain that knowledge.

CA: It sounds as if the ITI presentations are more about Europe than just the UK.
CS:
Absolutely. This is about community harmonization legislation. So it doesn’t matter if you are importing into Germany or France; the effective rules are the same. Many companies we talk to operate more broadly across the whole of Europe. My talk is more general on the framework or the Directive and how it will operate, how the new rules will apply and what they are. My colleague Steve Andrews’ presentation is more on a range of things about the negotiations in Europe.  And another colleague, Matthew Bignell, one of my inspectors, will explain how we actually do it in the UK, how it really works in the field. And there will be a range of other speakers. For example, there will be one on the China RoHS, another on supply chain management, and so on.

 

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