Lax lawmaking leaves RoHS in chaos

Whether by error or omission many European states have botched attempts to add new hazardous substance laws to their statute books, according to industry groups.

The resulting confusion will leave a huge question mark over who is responsible for ensuring goods are free of banned substances and where exactly in the supply chain the buck will stop.

The EU’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) legislation effectively bans a number of hazardous chemicals such as lead, mercury and cadmium from electrical goods, but the spirit and the word of the law seem to have got into a tangled mess.

The law says that products placed on the market after July 1st, 2006 should not contain the toxic metals.

But while it appears clear that it was the Euro legislators’ intention that goods be free of hazardous chemicals when they are manufactured, legal loopholes have appeared when the directive became national law in several member states.

According to industry group the European Committee of Manufacturers of Domestic Equipment (CECED) Belgium, Ireland, Latvia, Slovakia, Portugal and Spain have all bodged the law making bulk retailers, distributors or even shops selling individual products to the public responsible for compliance.

The group claims this will cause havoc within the internal market and put business under serious threat of ruin.

“In addition to the practical problems retailers and shops will encounter [in affected countries] this represents a barrier to trade and will severely disrupt the single market, without bringing about any environmental benefit” said a spokesman for CECED.

The group is now calling on the EU to sort out the mess as a matter of urgency, before its impact is felt in the summer.

By Sam Bond

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