EU Court ruled for stricter interpretation of REACH chemicals regulation

BEUC NEWS - 18.09.2015

On September 10, the Court of Justice of the European Union strengthened consumers’ legal rights to ask for meaningful information about the potential presence of dangerous substances in consumer products. The Court ruled that information obligations for retailers apply to each component contained in a product and not only to the product as a whole[1].

BEUC strongly welcomes this decision. It has been a long standing demand of BEUC that REACH should be interpreted in this sense[2].

BACKGROUND

Article 33 of the REACH regulation entitles European consumers to ask retailers for information whether a product contains chemicals which are harmful for our health and the environment, so-called Substances of Very High Concerns (SVHC), in a concentration of above 0.1%. Retailers then have to provide free-of-charge information within 45 days.

However, since the adoption of REACH the case of complex products, i.e. products made of several components, has been hotly debated. According to an industry-friendly interpretation by the European Commission the REACH “right to know” only referred to the entire product such as a bicycle or a phone. Some Member States and Norway took the position that the 0.1% threshold should be calculated on the basis of each component comprised in the complex product (e.g. the saddle or the handle of a bicycle).

The disagreement between the Commission and some Member States is about the threshold which is calculated on the basis of the total weight of a product.

The question was brought before the Court by France, which supports a more stringent interpretation of the REACH regulation, i.e. based on each component of a complex product.