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WEEE: Spain - Concerns over potential fraud in conjunction with visible fee

A report by Spain’s State Advisory Council on the Environment prepared alongside the now complete transposition of the Recast WEEE Directive suggests that a large part of the visible WEEE fees charged to end-users under the previous WEEE Decree was not spent on WEEE management.

The report alleges that entities obligated as producers may have been collecting EUR 300 million annually (about EUR 600 per tonne POM*) in visible fees from end-users, while WEEE compliance organisations reportedly spent about EUR 65 million on the management of B2C WEEE (about EUR 110 per tonne POM, or 445 per tonne collected*).

This implies that 60-80% of the visible fee charged to consumers may not be used towards WEEE management. According to the report ‘Producers of household EEE exhibit the highest rate of non-compliance with the EU WEEE collection targets, despite the large amounts of funds collected by them’**.

The report goes on to say that investigations are under way to determine whether there has been any kind of economic fraud.

The recent Royal Decree on WEEE (see 11.03.15 news) prohibits the visible fee on sales receipts and invoices (though it allows WEEE costs to be shown in brochures or on websites). Under the repealed WEEE Decree, displaying the visible fee was voluntary. During the consultations on the transposition of the Recast Directive, concerns were raised that producers and distributors displayed and charged higher fees than those they passed on to compliance organisations.

* Our estimate based on applying 2012 volumes with a WEEE collection rate around 25%

** In 2009, ORPAEE (the Producer Register Observatory – currently offline) estimated that roughly EUR 15 million of visible fees were fraudulently kept by retailers and unregistered producers, out of an estimated total of EUR 180 million charged, with the biggest share estimated as being charged on ICT and consumer electronics (EUR 7 million), followed by power tools (EUR 5 million) and small household appliances (EUR 3 million).

*** The original WEEE Directive (2002/96/EC) abolished the displaying of visible fees from 2011 (2013 for category 1 EEE), however the WEEE Recast Directive (2012/19/EU) reversed this, allowing member states to choose to introduce the measure (either as a financing instrument for historical WEEE or as a public awareness measure).

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