If you... sell electrical appliances
Retailers have legal obligations regarding the actual prices, previous prices and recommended prices of their goods. These prices must be stated truthfully, and it should be clear what particular item the price relates to.
If you are selling to consumers (as opposed to other businesses), the price you give must the total price, and "tax inclusive". There should be no hidden extras on top of that again such as VAT.
Electrical goods manufacturers are allowed to pass the cost of recycling on to consumers, through a "vEMC" (visible Environmental Management Charge), which is explained more fully below.
The vEMC must also be shown on the price display for the item, and you must include it in the final selling price. Remember that any vEMC you give to consumers cannot exceed the actual costs of recycling, and must be inclusive of 21% VAT.
Failure to display the final selling price that is inclusive of any vEMC may be a breach of the European Communities (Requirement to Indicate Product Prices) Regulations 2002, which are enforced by the National Consumer Agency.
Regulations on recycling
The EU's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive regulates the collection, recycling and disposal of specific end-of-life consumer items. As a simple rule of thumb, these rules refer to any product that has a battery or a plug.
Shops, market stalls and other retailers are obliged to take back old electrical equipment for free if customers are buying a similar appliance (for example a hair dryer for a hair dryer, but not a microwave for a toaster). You are not allowed to offer inducements to consumers as a way around these take-back obligations.
If you are delivering a new appliance such as a new washing machine, you must take back the old appliance.
If the old item is not exchanged at the time of the sale, you must inform the shopper in writing of the deadline to return the old goods to avail of the free one-for-one take back. This deadline is a maximum of:
- 15 days after you make the sale or
- 20 days after delivery
The cost of funding the collection, recycling and disposal of items is borne by the manufacturer through the Producer Recycling Fund. The retail price for new electrical appliances must show that they include a contribution to this fund.
This recycling cost - the vEMC - must be displayed by all producers, retailers and distance sellers handling new electrical products covered by these regulations. These charges are published by the national WEEE Register Society.
Registering for the scheme
As a retailer of electrical goods you must:
- Be registered with your local authority
- Provide for free in-store take back of household WEEE on a one-for-one basis on the sale of a new like product
In addition you must ensure that:
- The used electrical goods are delivered to an approved collection facility
- They are stored and transported in line with the requirements of the regulations
- Consumers are informed of the take back facilities available and are encouraged to participate in the separate collection of these products for recycling
You may offer alternative methods (such as a prepaid envelope to return a small appliance such as a mobile phone), so long as these do not make it more difficult for the consumer to return the goods.
Whatever the method, remember that retailers are not allowed to charge consumers for the take-back service.
Shops are not required to take back batteries which are not contained within a piece of electrical equipment. These are outside the scope of the WEEE directive. But where a product taken back does contain batteries, you should leave them in the equipment.
Your other obligations
These regulations are on top of your customers' existing consumer rights. For example, if they order electrical goods that turn out to be faulty or of unsatisfactory quality, under the Sale of Goods Act they may be entitled to a repair, replacement or refund.
If you give a false or misleading description of the product, again the consumer may be entitled to a refund, and you may be in breach of the legislation.
Find out more about the CE Mark
Read the Environmental Protection Agency's guides about the WEE directive
Learn more about your obligations under the WEE directive
Read more about your general obligations if you sell products to consumers