A draft report published during the summer of 2011 shed light on which products may soon be affected by EU environmental rules under the EU Ecodesign Directive (2009/125/EC). According to the latest news from the European Commission, there is a delay in establishing a final plan – although this has not slowed down work on implementing other aspects of the directive.

In particular, several new product categories are being scrutinised for improvements in their design so as to make them more environmentally friendly.

Although the first Ecodesign Directive (2005/32/EC) concerned only energy-using products, the scope of the current directive additionally encompasses energy-related products (eg, bathroom fittings such as taps and showerheads, insulation products such as windows, and construction materials).

The current directive, like its predecessor, merely provides a framework for setting ecodesign requirements. The task of establishing detailed implementing rules lies with the European Commission. The commission carries out this task according to a working plan which sets out an indicative list of product groups considered as priorities for the adoption of implementing measures in the subsequent three years.

The draft report, which was published in August, anticipated the commission's working plan for the period 2012 to 2014. That publication contains an indicative product list, which notably includes taps and showerheads, detergents, mobile phones, electric kettles, water cookers and home audio products. Products are ranked according to their environmental improvement potential in light of criteria such as energy consumption and market volume.

Although the commission was initially expected to establish its definitive working plan for the period 2012 to 2014 by no later than October 21 2011, delays have been experienced by the commission services. A consultation forum, encompassing the views of various stakeholders, will be held on January 20 2012 with a view to adopting the final working plan in the spring of 2012.

While the publication will give great insight into which products are likely to become subject to EU ecodesign regulation, it is merely the first step towards the adoption of implementing measures.

Once the working plan is adopted, each product group mentioned will be analysed in a preparatory study to determine the most suitable ecodesign requirement. A thorough impact study will follow and determine, in particular, the energy-saving potential and costs for industry for each product group. Based on this information, the commission will prepare a draft regulation, which will be submitted for comments to a set group of stakeholders, put to vote by a special regulatory committee and finally scrutinised by the European Parliament.

At present, it takes a number of years for implementing measures to be put into place. Even after adoption, a transition period may apply before certain eco-friendly requirements take effect. Despite this lengthy procedure, stakeholders are currently pushing the commission for faster regulation.

Indeed, an ongoing study on the functioning and future prospects of EU ecodesign law is assessing the effectiveness of the directive, the efficiency of implementing measures, as well as member state enforcement. The findings of this study were due to be released by the end of 2011.

So far, 12 implementing regulations – covering 10 product groups – have been adopted. These cover:

  • simple set-top boxes;
  • televisions;
  • battery chargers and external power supplies;
  • office lighting;
  • street lighting;
  • electric motors;
  • circulators;
  • fans;
  • domestic refrigerators and freezers;
  • domestic dishwashers;
  • domestic non-directional lamps; and
  • standby and off-mode losses.

Regulations on air conditioners and comfort fans (Lot 10), and household tumble dryers (Lot 16) were expected before the end of 2011. Further, regulations on the following product categories are being prepared for adoption in 2012:

  • directional lamps, light-emitting diode lamps, halogen-lighting converters and luminaires;
  • water heaters and hot water storage tanks; and
  • boilers.

Further, on January 19 2012 a meeting of the consultation forum will be held on professional refrigeration equipment (Lot 1 – consisting of professional refrigerated cabinets, blast cabinets, walk-in cold rooms, refrigeration process chillers and remote condensing units).

In addition, two voluntary agreements were to be discussed in a steering committee: the first on November 30 2011 concerning complex set-top boxes (Lot 18) and the second on December 7 2011 concerning imaging equipment (Lot 4). Voluntary agreements take the place of binding regulations when the industry has pledged enough support and commitment to ensuring that specific ecodesign rules will be strictly observed.

On November 21 2011 the European Commission circulated a working document on both the ecodesign and energy labelling of domestic coffee machines (Lot 25). This was due to be discussed by the consultation forum on December 16 2011.

On the same date, the regulatory committee was also to vote on an implementing regulation on ecodesign requirements for electric pumps (Lot 11).

For further information on this topic please contact Reshad Forbes at Van Bael & Bellis by telephone (+32 2 647 73 50), fax (+32 2 640 64 99) or email ([email protected]).