Draft changes to the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) directives published this week by the European Commission will put added responsibility on the reseller community to ensure that the kit they sell is compliant.
At present, responsibility for ensuring compliance rests with the 'producer' of the equipment, but this definition has been canned in the latest version of the directive and replaced with 'manufacturer', 'importer' and 'distributor.'
Under EC terminology 'distributor' includes any organisation in the supply chain that is not a manufacturer or importer, meaning resellers and retailers will be included.
Dr Aidan Turnbull, head of WEEE, RoHS and EcoDesign at environmental consultancy Environ, explains: "The current directive places the obligation on the producer, which is the manufacturer or importer, or a reseller if it's their own brand."
However he added the manufacturer must now make a Declaration of Conformity under the new directive and importers must check that the manufacturer has carried out their obligations, which they did not have to do previously.
In addition to this the importer will be required to put their name, trademark and details on the equipment in some form.
Finally, before making the equipment available on the market suppliers must verify the relevant CE markings and documentation from the importer, if the goods were made outside the EU, or the manufacturer if they were made within the EU.
"A reseller that has reason to believe the kit does not conform [to the new regulations] cannot make it available on the market," warned Turnbull, "And those who believe kit is non-compliant are obliged to take steps to rectify that."
"I would anticipate that resellers will demand much more proof from importers and manufacturers that their products are RoHS compliant," he added.
Turnbull estimated that it would take around 18 months for the new directives to filter through the many layers of EC bureaucracy but added: "There will be a lot of work in the supply chain to ensure compliance at different levels."
The RoHS directive first came into force on 1 July 2006 and was designed to prevent the use of dangerous substances including mercury, lead and cadmium from being used in technology which ultimately end its life in landfill.