Monday, July 2, 2018

e-Labelling: Moving compliance into the digital age

Wireless communication devices such as mobile phones and tablets, like many other electronic products need to comply with a large range of European regulations before they can be put on the market and require a number of markings to show compliance. The traditional requirements for compliance reporting and physical labels affixed to the device cost an enormous amount of money: EU companies in the computing, multimedia & telephony sectors pay €3.9 billion for compliance every year, with compliance information consuming up to 20% of that sum.

These are the findings of a study by economic and policy consultancy firm Valdani Vicari & Associati (VVA) who carried out a cost-benefits analysis of introducing an e-labelling scheme in Europe. e-Labels are an alternative form of providing compliance information, either electronically through embedding it in the software of devices with a built-in screen (or that can be connected to a screen) or through machine readable-codes, such as QR codes, for other products. e-labels offer greater security, accessibility and longevity of the compliance information (remaining in the device as opposed to a paper report that is stored far away from the device in use) while also streamlining and simplifying the delivery of the required information.

VVA’s study showed that the introduction of e-labelling would reduce the overall cost of indicating compliance by 15% for companies active in the EU, that three out of four companies questioned would opt for e-labelling if it was allowed and that they see a possible positive impact on innovation as well as a reduced environmental footprint of products.

To date, at least 13 countries in the world, representing 56% of the global economy and 50% of the world population, already allow the indication of regulatory compliance through an electronic label. In a second study, VVA analysed the introduction of e-labelling in three highly digital aware markets: Australia, Singapore and the US.

Their conclusions were:

  • the introduction of e-labelling helps to respond to technological developments
  • it already covers most electronic products in these countries without any adverse impact on market surveillance authorities, customs agencies or consumers. 
  • it reduces environmental impacts by lowering waste and preventing the need for printing the physical mark on the product, and 
  • e-labelling improves traceability and transparency, as compliance information is more easily available and remains within the product.

So, an easy step towards reducing operational costs, environmental impact, administrative hurdles and furthering innovation? Overall yes, but changing established procedures is never that easy. In this case, it will need the agreement of 28 market surveillance authorities to revise their routine of controlling the compliance of electronic devices and upgrade their internal proceedings to match technological developments, which in and of itself might be a worthwhile exercise.

Both studies were presented in June at an event hosted by MEP Anneleen van Bossuyt in the European Parliament.


Links:

Cost-Benefits analysis on the introduction of an e-labelling scheme in Europe: https://tinyurl.com/y7w6uphu

Research into e-labelling schemes outside the EU: https://tinyurl.com/yckqex38

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