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Irish Authorities Announce Energy Labelling Inspection of Up To 100 Retail Outlets and Report on Results of WEEE and Batteries Enforcement Plan

On 11 November 2016, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (the SEAI) announced an upcoming inspection of up to 100 retail outlets across Ireland. The inspection will check whether the outlets are complying with EU regulations on the display of energy labels. The inspection is due to run until the end of December. The SEAI will also be ensuring that online retailers are complying with the regulations by carrying out website inspections.

SEAI’s approach will be one of assistance as opposed to incrimination. It aims to identify retailers’ errors in order to help them comply with the law. However, it has said that consistently poor performance will lead to some sort of enforcement action being taken. The authority is also currently undertaking research to establish the current state of retailers’ knowledge of their regulatory obligations and, also, how best it can ensure their compliance.

SEAI is the authority responsible for ensuring that products sold in Ireland, which are covered by the EU’s Energy Labelling Directive, comply with the regulations. SEAI is undertaking this market surveillance on behalf of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment.

Retailers are required, under the EU Energy Labelling Directive, to correctly display an energy label on a number of different home appliances, including vacuum cleaners, tumble dryers, dishwashers and fridges. It is felt that displaying the energy labels allows consumers to be better informed and in consequence make better choices when making purchases. The authority’s thinking is that ensuring that consumers know about the energy efficiency of a product should make them more likely to choose energy efficient products as it will lower their energy bills.

The authority hopes that ensuring compliance with the Directive will overall have the effect of reducing Ireland’s energy consumption, allowing it achieve its climate action goals.

The aim of the survey is to point consumers in the right direction, namely, to buy more energy efficient products, with the help of an energy label. The authority wishes this information to be provided – and indeed promoted – at the point of sale. The better one is at promoting and selling the best-rated energy efficient products, the closer society will come to reducing its reliance on fossil fuels, according to a source at the SEAI.

In related news, the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (the EPA) has recently published an enforcement update on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE) and battery regulations in Ireland. The report, which covers the period July to December 2015, highlights the continued implementation of a comprehensive WEEE and Batteries enforcement plan which was developed at the beginning of last year.

This plan took into account the different players in the WEEE and batteries sectors including producers, sellers and retailers, and set out the Agency’s intentions in respect of the number of inspections and audits to be carried out under each of these categories. Notably, the plan complied with the requirements of the EU’s ‘Recommended Minimum Criteria for Environmental Inspections’ (RMCEI) – a set of non-binding criteria for the planning, carrying out, following up and reporting on environmental inspections, designed to encourage consistent environmental enforcement in all Member States.

The 2015 enforcement plan included a number of dimensions. For example, it required producers, distance-sellers and retailers to submit WEEE waste management plans and reports. The EPA has since reported a submission rate of about 90% for reports, with approximately 12% of those being rejected. It also featured a campaign of 60 audits in the producer sector. Of these, 32 producers were found to be non-compliant prior to the audit while only two were found to be compliant post-audit. The main issues flagged related to non-submission of complete waste reports and non-registration with the National Producer Registration Body (formally the WEEE Register Society).

Compliance in the distance-seller sector was a particularly important area of action for the EPA in 2015, because reports from 2014 did not fully determine the level of non-compliance with new and amended rules in the sector. The EPA decided to focus its inspections on websites based in the EU which supplied household, IT-type equipment or batteries onto the Irish Market.

It should be noteworthy for Hong Kong sellers that, according to the enforcement update, all eighty distance-sellers were non-compliant prior to the inspection, and over 56 did not respond to the inspection report. The EPA was therefore forced to acknowledge that the distance-selling sector is very difficult to inspect and enforce.

In contrast, audits for self-complying battery producers wielded more favourable results for the EPA. It identified four self-complying battery producers, all of which had submitted approved management plans and reports due in 2015. Three producers were audited and provided with the necessary actions to be taken. All producers were ultimately found to be compliant with the battery rules.

Under the WEEE and Battery Regulations, it is local authorities and not the EPA which implement many of the retailer obligations. The EPA therefore developed a guidance manual for local authorities for WEEE in 2015 and is now currently updating a local authorities’ batteries enforcement guidance manual. The EPA also supported its enforcement efforts by developing an extensive range of guidance and templates for stakeholders which were later published on the EPA website. Particular attention was paid to updating guidance in response to new 2014 WEEE regulations which implemented the recast WEEE Directive 2012/19/EU.

Hong Kong sellers can click on the following for the: Enforcement Update.

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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