Detailed rules adopted for EC eco-labelling scheme

Four Decisions fleshing out the revised EC eco-labelling scheme were adopted by the European Commission in November. 1

A Regulation revising the eco-labelling scheme was adopted this summer. Key changes include the establishment of a new EU Eco-labelling Board (EUEB) to take charge of drafting labelling criteria, and extension of the scheme to services and retailers' own-brand products (ENDS Report 306, p 39 ).

Two of the new Decisions lay down rules of procedure for the EUEB and the Consultation Forum, members of which will also serve on the EUEB. They stipulate that the Forum's membership must include the six main European organisations representing consumer and environmental interests, industry, commerce, trade unions and small and medium-sized enterprises.

The task of preparing criteria for a particular product group will be delegated to a lead national competent body by the EUEB. Detailed tasks to be carried out by the competent body include:

  • Analysing the nature of the market for the product, including the main manufacturers, market shares and imports. The analysis must also cover "the possibilities of successfully marketing the eco-labelled products", and a marketing and communications strategy must be proposed. These requirements may help overcome some of the shortcomings of the previous scheme.

  • Analysing the key environmental impacts of the product group, the environmental best practice in the sector, "looking also at design for environment issues", and identifying ways in which the product group might be improved and how these might be addressed in the eco-labelling criteria.

  • Analysing the product's "fitness" in meeting consumer needs and how this might be addressed in the criteria.

  • Making an inventory of existing eco-labels, standards, test methods and studies, and estimating the costs of testing products for compliance with the criteria.

  • Identifying potential barriers to the successful establishment of the product group in the scheme.

    Competent bodies will also have to consult interested parties and identify those which might help in drafting criteria.

    A third Decision lays down the fees to be paid by companies putting forward products for eco-labelling.

  • The minimum and maximum application fees will be 300 and 1,300 euros. For small and medium-sized enterprises and applicants from developing countries the fees charged within a Member State must be cut by 25%.

  • Annual fees will be 0.15% of the annual sales revenue for the product within the EC, subject to a minimum of 500 euros and a maximum of 25,000 euros. Again, there will be a 25% reduction for SMEs and companies from developing countries.

    In addition, a 15% discount will apply to companies registered under the EC's eco-management and auditing scheme or certified under the ISO14001 environmental management standard. The reduction will apply provided that the company is expressly committed in its environmental policy and objectives to ensuring that its labelled products comply with the eco-labelling criteria, and demonstrates this annually.

    The Decision also enables national competent bodies to cut the annual fee by up to 25% for the first three firms to receive the eco-label in their countries. All the above reductions are cumulative, subject to a maximum discount on the standard fee of 50%.

    However, as before, companies will have to meet the costs of testing and verification of their products themselves.

    The fourth Decision sets out the standard terms for contracts for use of the eco-label, covering advertising, compliance monitoring, suspension and revocation of the eco-label and related matters. The contract is little changed from the existing version.

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