Impact of Online Sales on the Circular Economy

Eucobat Positions
Attachment Size
PP Online Sales - Sum.pdf 1.62 MB

The principle of extended producer responsibility is becoming more widespread in the EU and in the Member States to achieve the objectives of environmental policy and to strive for a circular economy. This policy approach gives producers a significant responsibility – financial and/or physical – not only for the requirements to collect and recycle end-of-life products, but also for prevention, communication, sensibilisation,... 

The exponential growth in online retailing, has undoubtedly some benefits for consumers by improving market access, availability of products and market transparency. On the other hand, it complicates in practice market surveillance, increases significantly the number of free riders and has as such negatively affected the effectiveness and the efficiency of the regulatory framework of the circular economy. 

A level playing field for producers and retailers should be ensured concerning financing, takeback and information obligations. 

The growing part of “free riders” on the market not only affects directly the financing of the EPR scheme, it also increases the burden of the traditional “bricks and mortar” sales channels, with a negative leverage effect and an inevitable negative impact on the environmental performances of the EPR schemes.[1]

While the internet sales, with the countless lorries driving around for the delivery of goods could in theory increase the consumer convenience and the collection of waste batteries, this potential does not become reality, as waste products are not taken back in reality.

Also, while internet sales has almost unlimited possibilities for the distribution of information, this potential does not become reality either.

Regulation and market surveillance are increasingly hampered by the creation and development of marketplaces that facilitate the online sale of a foreign supplier to a consumer. In most cases, the websites of the marketplaces lack transparency concerning the selling party, as well for the consumer as for the authorities. The marketplaces create a screen between the “producers” and consumers/authorities, and decrease this way substantially the transparency.

Eucobat proposal

In order to avoid the negative disruptive effect of internet sales on the development of the circular economy, Eucobat proposes:

All persons that sell batteries by means of distance communication directly to private households or to users other than private households in a Member State, and are established in another Member State or in a third country, should be considered a producer and a retailer. They should have the same financial and operational obligations as other producers and retailers.

  1. Producers supplying batteries by means of distance communication to consumers should be registered in the Member State that they sell to, either directly or through an authorized representative.
  2. Effective market surveillance should be enabled by an advanced collaboration between the competent authorities (registers) of the Member States.
  3. Information obligations for the internet sellers should be clearly defined in the legislation, including the takeback obligation at the occasion of the delivery of new batteries or products containing batteries. In particular, the website should indicate at least the available household collection points and contact information for questions related to the collection and recycling of waste batteries.
  4. Marketplaces, facilitating the online sale of products, should be jointly and severally liable for all the legal obligations (operational and financial) of the producers, in case the producer doesn’t comply.