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ECHA Publishes Tips for Compliance with REACH Obligations for Imported Goods

Hong Kong traders may like to know that, late last year, the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) published a newsletter article, entitled “ECHA Helpdesk's top tips: What do importers of chemicals need to know?”. The newsletter article lists a number of frequently asked questions in relation to the REACH obligations of certain EU importers and provides practical answers to these questions.

In particular, the newsletter article addresses these obligations for three different categories of importers, notably: (i) EU importers of substances on their own or in mixtures in quantities of one tonne or more per year, (ii) EU importers of articles and (iii) EU importers whose non-EU supplier has appointed an EU-based Only Representative (OR).

First, the newsletter article discusses the registration obligations of EU importers of substances (on their own or in mixtures) in quantities of one tonne or more per year. ECHA rightly points out that the first step in ensuring the efficient preparation of a REACH registration is substance identification. Indeed, in accordance with the “one substance, one registration” principle, registration has to take place at substance level, covering the tonnage spread over the different mixtures in which a particular substance is included.

A correct substance identification will also ensure that registrants of the same substance belong to the same joint registration. While each importing company is required to register, companies importing the same substance cannot normally register independently from one another. Rather, companies importing and manufacturing a particular substance have to work together to prepare a joint registration.

Second, the newsletter article addresses the obligations of importers of articles. The REACH Regulation defines the term article as “an object which during production is given a special shape, surface or design which determines its function to a greater degree than does its chemical composition”. In other words, the term article includes most consumer products such as toys, clothing, shoes and electrical appliances, as well as semi-finished products meeting the aforementioned definition.

While articles as such are not subject to registration under the REACH Regulation, individual substances in articles are subject to the registration obligations in case they are present in the articles in quantities over one tonne per year and the substances are intended to be released under normal or reasonably foreseeable conditions of use. In case these conditions are met, the registration obligation applies to the importer insofar as the substance has not been registered for that use by any other company.

The newsletter article also highlights the fact that importers of articles are required to notify ECHA in case their articles contain so-called substances of very high concern (SVHCs). These SVHCs are included in the so-called “Candidate List” of substances for possible inclusion in the authorisation list (Annex XIV of the REACH Regulation). The newsletter article explains that importers of articles have to be informed by their non-EU based manufacturers in case the imported articles at issue contain one or more SVHCs.

Finally, the newsletter article answers the question of whether importers still have to register their substances in case their non-EU supplier has appointed an EU-based only representative (OR). Under REACH, a natural or legal person established outside the EU, who manufactures a substance, formulates a mixture or produces an article can appoint an OR to carry out the required registration of the substance that is imported (as such, in a mixture or in an article) into the EU. The newsletter article states that, in such a situation, the importer is relieved from registration obligations, since he is then considered to be a downstream user.

The newsletter article lists a number of recommendations for importers in this situation. First, while downstream users do not, in principle, have registration obligations under the REACH Regulation, they still have to comply with other obligations, such as the provision of safety data sheets for their substances and mixtures. In this context, the newsletter article recommends that importers-downstream users keep track of the agreements and communications between themselves, the non-EU based company and the OR.

Second, the newsletter article emphasises that it is important for importers-downstream users to know the identity of the OR and to know how much of their imported volume is covered by the registration made by the OR. Indeed, an importer will only be regarded as a downstream user of the OR for the tonnage covered by the OR’s registration. In case the imported volume is not covered by the OR’s registration, the importer remains responsible for the imports.

Finally, the newsletter article states that, in case the OR fails to fulfil his registration obligations, the importer still has to register the substance in order for the substance to stay legally on the market.   

Hong Kong Traders interested in reading ECHA’s full text should click on the following link: newsletter article.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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