Government announces delay to WEEE Directive

United Kingdom

The Energy Minister, Malcolm Wicks announced on Thursday 15 December that progress on the implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment ("WEEE") Directive is to be reviewed immediately. In effect this means that the UK implementation of the WEEE Directive, already nearly six months late according to the requirements of the Directive, will be further delayed.

The WEEE Directive requires that producers of electrical and electronic equipment meet the costs of the collection and recycling or other treatment of WEEE. Amongst other requirements, the Directive also creates an obligation for retailers to offer free take-back of household WEEE.

Prior to this announcement, implementing Regulations were expected at the start of 2006, with the main requirements of the WEEE Directive commencing in July 2006. The latest announcement states that the Government will carry out a cross-departmental review followed by a formal consultation on draft Regulations and guidance in Spring 2006. No revised dates for implementation have been proposed as yet.

The decision to mount a review reflects – as acknowledged by the DTI - continuing concerns by business and other stakeholders in the potential costs of achieving compliance. Whilst the Government risks legal action by the EU Commission for failing to implement the WEEE Directive on time, given the complexity of the Directive's requirements, this approach may be approved by some. However, for those businesses that have begun investing in procedures and processes to deal with WEEE, this further uncertainty and delay will not be welcome. The fact that other EU Member States are pressing ahead with implementing the WEEE Directive will also cause problems in resolving the continuing uncertainty over how the Directive impacts upon cross-border transactions.