18 March 2016
Ecodesign Working Plan Setting out List of Priority Products is Delayed Due to Fears over “Brexit”
Hong Kong manufacturers may be keen to learn that the anticipated final report of the Ecodesign Working Plan 2015-2017 is likely to be further delayed due to the European Commission’s fears over “Brexit” (the possibility of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union).
The preparatory study to develop the Ecodesign Directive Working Plan 2015-2017 commenced on 1 January 2014 and concluded with the publication on 15 October 2014 of the so-called Task 4 Draft Report. This was part of the lead-up to the third ecodesign work programme following the EU Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC) coming into force.
Hong Kong companies may recall that publication of the final version of the report was expected in July 2015 and it was anticipated that the European Commission would adopt the Ecodesign Working Plan 2015-2017 shortly after September 2015.
It has, however, come to light that the final report is now expected after the UK’s EU referendum in June 2016. On 23 June 2016, British citizens will vote in a referendum as to whether the UK should leave the EU.
It is thought that the European Commission has delayed implementing the Ecodesign Working Plan 2015-2017 to avoid an anti-EU press attack in the UK. The European Commission is also fearful that implementing the Ecodesign Working Plan 2015-2017 will encourage Euroscepticism across Europe over Brussels’ over-interference in increasing red tape and costs for businesses.
Until the final report is published, it is unknown which products will be prioritised for future ecodesign regulations. Any such future regulations will establish further ecodesign requirements (implementing measures), which will apply to all products specifically covered by them, regardless of whether they are manufactured in the EU or imported. These future regulations will add to a list of more than 20 existing ecodesign regulations, which Hong Kong exporters may recall were already adopted pursuant to the European Commission’s earlier Working Plans.
Products subject to existing ecodesign requirements include air conditioners, comfort fans, household dishwashers, household tumble driers, refrigerators, freezers, televisions and lighting.
The 2009 Directive was introduced to improve the design of products potentially harmful to the environment, and to eliminate these products from the market. The regulations implementing the Directive will have affected manufacturers and exporters in Hong Kong who will have had to comply with them before placing the specifically covered products on the EU market.
For example, last year, Regulation 548/2014, implementing Directive 2009/125/EC with regard to ecodesign requirements for small, medium and large power transformers came into force. The Regulation outlines product information and minimum energy performance requirements for power transformers that fall within the implementing measure’s scope. Since then, Hong Kong manufacturers of power transformers have had to comply with the ecodesign requirements if they want their power transformers to be exported to and sold on the EU market.
The Task 4 Draft Report published in October 2014 provides an indicative list of 16 priority product groups for future ecodesign and energy labelling measures. That list includes the following product groups: hair dryers, hand dryers, kettles, mobile phones, toasters, wireless chargers for consumer electronics, base stations, gateways, building automation control systems in non-residential buildings, high pressure cleaners, lifts, (free-standing) hot vending machines, refrigerated containers, signage displays, greenhouse covers and PV inverters.
Future ecodesign and energy labelling measures will require that the energy efficiency, durability and recyclability of the then specifically covered products are improved. It is speculated that, among others, kettles will be included in the final report. With regard to kettles, the Task 4 Draft Report refers only to domestic electric kettles for heating water for drinks and cooking. The Task 4 Draft Report notes that the following ecodesign measures could be envisaged for domestic kettles:
- Improved durability to reduce resource consumption;
- Minimum requirements on energy efficiency;
- Usage of thick film elements rather than resistance coil heaters; and
- Presence of an energy label to show the energy consumption of the product.
Envisaged delays over the introduction of the Working Plan 2015-2017– due to fears over Brexit – until after June 2016, have not thus far been confirmed by the European Commission.
All ecodesign requirements will pose financial implications for Hong Kong manufacturers exporting their goods to the EU, as costs will have to be borne for adapting products at, in particular, the design and production stage. Additionally, by improving energy efficiency, durability and reparability of products, it could be the case that fewer brand new products are eventually purchased by consumers, which could likewise impact on the supply chain for new products.
The Task 4 Draft Report suggests that manufacturers of low price kettles will be the most affected by the cost implications of the required improvements. However, the Report concludes that there should be no excessive costs to manufacturers as a result of the proposed ecodesign measures.