Considering all the efforts the electrical and electronics industry put into improving their products and eliminating the restricted substances covered by EU RoHS, one might think that the world has become a better place since the enforcement of the EU RoHS Directive in July 2006. If making the world a better place was not motivation enough for some players in the E&E industry, the risk of incurring severe penalties probably played a part in convincing them to make their consumer products “go green.”

The EU initially set the tone of RoHS market surveillance by allowing member states to individually determine the types of penalties that would be effective, proportionate and dissuasive enough to make the industry abide by EU RoHS.

Making market surveillance work in practice is the responsibility of the individual EU member state, and to support them, an EU-wide network of market surveillance authorities was put in place to allow experience sharing. Furthermore, member states rely on a RoHS enforcement guidance document, drafted in May 2006 by the UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR).

Market Surveillance Results

RoHS violations were officially uncovered through market surveillance in Denmark (2006), the UK (2007 and 2009), and Belgium (2008). A RoHS enforcement study in 2008 by the Nordic Countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland) revealed that from 152 products in 25 categories, 22 were non-compliant and one even resulted in a prosecution. Details on non-compliant products are usually made public by internet-based magazines like EETimes, among others.

The industry itself often claims that “only 10% of the products are compliant but 90% of them are 95% compliant.” However, from a legal and economic point of view, the 5% can make the difference between successful marketing and forced market withdrawal. The reality seems to be a bit different though. The latest market surveillance report by the UK’s BERR indicates that only 45% of tested products are fully compliant and 35% are confirmed non-compliant, while the remaining 20% are left open as “uncertain” or “questionable” cases.

Implementing RoHS Quality Management Systems

Public market surveillance may draw a lot of attention and create a buzz in the E&E business, but it is in fact only a complementary measure. The key tool for enforcement bodies is actually checking the producer’s quality management systems for RoHS awareness and compliance procedures, a practice known as “indirect enforcement.” Manufacturers can prove RoHS awareness and good manufacturing practices by implementing data management systems that include Bills of Materials (BOMs) and supplier RoHS compliance declarations.

Self declarations are, in some cases, mistrusted by some local authorities who consequently may ask for confirmation tests or even a shipping impoundment. Test reports or Certificates of Conformity by independent third parties, on the other hand, are recognized and have an excellent reputation with enforcement authorities. Combining internal QA/QM tools with additional third party testing will ensure a product’s smooth transition through market surveillance.

SGS experts can support your product compliance efforts with global RoHS (EU, China, Korea, US, etc.), WEEE, REACH or EuP regulations, as well as with related requirements for packaging materials or batteries. SGS services help prepare products for the market requirements of the future – whatever the legal frameworks might be.

For more information, please contact:

Dr. Udo Krischke
Global Technical Manager RSTS

SGS Germany GmbH
t: +49 6128 246 816

About SGS

The SGS Group is the global leader and innovator in inspection, verification, testing and certification services. Founded in 1878, SGS is recognized as the global benchmark in quality and integrity. With more than 56,000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1,000 offices and laboratories around the world.