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Little guy trampled in meaty WEEE overhaul

Small computer outlets down in the dumps

An independent IT retailer group has slammed the Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform and accused it of “ignorance” over what the outfit sees as discrimination against small shop owners within the WEEE legislation.

ITACS chairman Matthew Woolley told The Register that small UK shops that sell and repair computers were being unfairly burdened by the “ill thought out” Waste, Electrical and Electronic Equipment regulations that came into force in Blighty in 2007.

He added that many small shop owners were up in arms about BERR’s current consultation process that seeks the views of the tech industry on changes recently meted out by Brussels.

The European Commission is revising its WEEE Directive with plans to jack up recycling requirements placed on electronic and electrical vendors based in EU countries.

The directive had previously imposed a target for each of the 27-bloc EU member states to collect four kilograms of electrical or electronic waste for every citizen of the country.

Under the new plan that goal will be replaced by a “binding target” of 65 per cent of the average weight of kit placed on the market in that country in the preceding two years, the EC confirmed in December last year.

In April the UK government expressed fears that the changes may prove too costly for business, and ordered a full review of the more stringent proposals.

However, ITACS is concerned its small shop owners could be trampled in Brussels’ stampede to tighten the WEEE regulations, enforcing a burden on small businesses even though, in Woolley's words, the directive is supposed to be about how the "producer should foot the bill".

The lobby group, which was formed in 2006 to protect the interests of small computer retailers, has garnered around 200 views from resellers in the UK and submitted their angry comments to BERR.

Woolley said the changes “aren’t good for the small person, costs are too expensive for retailers and the government’s response is ill thought out.”

When asked why he thought BERR was failing to respond to the small biz world’s discomfort with any overhaul to the WEEE directive, Woolley told El Reg “it’s ignorance rather than anything more sinister.”

He added that while small computer shops were required to have posters up and do weeks of training to show customers that they fully comply with the distributor take-back scheme, Woolley claimed that many online retailers failed to be WEEE-compliant.

“If you look at lots of big name websites you’ll see that many of them don’t mention WEEE anywhere on their sites, which means they’re not complying,” he claimed.

“Or, if you walk into Asda or Tesco and ask them about WEEE and see what kind of response, if any, you’ll get from them.”

Woolley added that ITACS agreed that reducing defunct electrical and electronic kit from ending up in landfill was a good thing, but in the rush for compliance “the little guys have been forgotten,” he said.

The WEEE directive finally came into UK law in July 2007. Since then many small firms have complained about the feasibility of the European regulations that warned businesses a fine would be imposed if they failed to junk kit responsibly. ®

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