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Twenty per cent of lamps sold in UK ‘non-compliant’ due to online retail

As much as 20 per cent of lamps sold in the UK could consist of LED lamps that do not comply with WEEE regulations, according to research by recovery scheme Recolight.

Twenty per cent of lamps sold in UK ‘non-compliant’ due to online retail
The growing proportion of sales being made through online multi-seller retailers is the main cause for this non-compliance, the scheme says as it calls on ministers to clamp down on loopholes that allow what its calls ‘free-riding’.

Discussing Recolight’s concerns, CEO Nigel Harvey said: “If our estimates are correct, it would appear that WEEE free-riding through some online multi-seller platforms has reached epidemic proportions. And although the producers are mainly based in China, most of the products are available for next day delivery in the UK.

“The Environment Agency (EA) publishes a list of all WEEE registered companies, and so checking the compliance status of companies is a moment’s work. We estimated the number of companies selling LED lamps through online retailers that do not appear on the WEEE register. We then checked the pack sizes promoted, and the number of reviews of apparent UK origin. That meant we could estimate the total annual lamp sales by apparently non-registered producers. We then expressed that as a percentage of total UK figures published by the EA.”

The analysis was submitted to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is investigating the impact of online sales on WEEE compliance. Recolight says it expects the OECD report to estimate that ‘free-riding’ through online sellers constitutes 5-10 per cent of all electrical products sold, but with a higher rate for smaller products that are easy to ship like LED lamps.

Harvey added: “WEEE could just be the tip of the iceberg: While it is very easy to check WEEE compliance, it is harder to verify electrical safety, CE, VAT, and import duty compliance. But if a company has not complied with WEEE, how certain is it that they comply with other UK requirements?

“Non-compliance is bad for legitimate businesses, and gives the non-compliant company unfair competitive advantage. So we are pleased that the OECD will be publishing a report into this problem later this year. Defra officials are aware of the report, and Recolight will be calling on ministers to close this loophole in the forthcoming review of the WEEE regulations, provisionally set for this Autumn.”

EucoLight, the European trade association for lighting WEEE compliance schemes is co-hosting a seminar in Brussels, on 13 September, to raise the profile of the problem. 

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