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Online retailers and free-riding

Hosted by EucoLight, EXPRA and WEEE forum

When EPR was introduced nearly 30 years ago, practically all of the products under EPR have been sold by retail stores with a small part of specialised catalogue distance sellers existing. Already in these days in the 90s, this sector had a lower compliance than the other sector with a local retailer. With the success of internet trade which enables the (private and commercial) consumer to buy directly at a seller without visiting a stationary trade, more and more goods under EPR are sold via this distribution channel, often with a seller outside the country where the consumer has its seat, or even outside the European Union. This has been boosted by the success of trading platforms like Ebay, Amazon, etc. which makes it extremely easy for a consumer to find his seller of preference. The OECD has seen a growth in business in internet trade from 2014 to 2017 by over 60% in 8 major EU economies (132 to 215 billion Pounds).

Even more than before, this sector is not very compliant with EPR obligations (but also with VAT and other tax obligations) which leads to an increasing amount of free riding in national EPR systems. Free riding is also leading to an increased burden for those companies who are complying with their obligations, meaning that they have to pay indirectly the fees of the free riders as well. For the WEEE sector, the non-store EEE retail in the EU is thought to be >30% of the market so that the problem has reached a point where the competent authorities but also the value chain, including the selling platforms / fulfilment houses, have to take action to avoid the collapsing of the first EPR system.

The new Waste Framework Directive has recognized this challenge by setting out the minimum requirements for EPR schemes (Article 8a), also especially for this distance selling sector:
Member States shall establish an adequate monitoring and enforcement framework with a view to ensuring that the producers of products and organisations implementing extended producer responsibility obligations on behalf of producers, implement their extended producer responsibility obligations, including in the case of distance sales, the financial means are properly used and all actors involved in the implementation of the schemes report reliable data.

The OECD is conducting research on the matter and recently issued a new draft report. EucoLight and the WEEE Forum hosted a conference on this topic in Brussels on 13 September 2017. Half a year after that conference, a workshop on 7 May 2018 in Limassol brought new opportunities to take stock of progress made, collected data and intelligence, identified good practices for both Member States and compliance schemes, and, most importantly, learned from each other what we can do collectively in joint initiatives.

The EPR Club Lunch Debate hosted by the WEEE Forum, EucoLight and EXPRA – representing 3 important product streams under EPR – would like to follow up all these efforts to discuss the current situation, the discussed solutions and possible next steps with all relevant EU stakeholders.

Event Overview


  • Pascal Leroy, WEEE Forum
  • Marc Guiraud, EucoLight
  • Marc Adams, IVCIE

Additional information

  • WEEE Forum Executive summary Pyrgos event 2018
  • OECD report on EPR and impact of online sales - June 2018
  • European Commission Notice on the market surveillance of products sold online - August 2017
  • European Commission Communication on tackling illegal content online - September 2017
  • European Commission Recommendation on measures to effectively tackle illegal content online - March 2018
  • Blue Guide on the implementation of EU product rules - July 2016
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