• The UK’s largest consumer group action for personal injury is to be brought in the High Court in relation to a fungicide found in certain leather sofas imported from China. The sofas, sold by retailers including Land of Leather, Argos and Walmsleys, reportedly caused severe skin reactions in more than 5,000 people around the UK. A hearing is due to take place in February to establish which sofas were faulty and what level of damages should be awarded to victims.
  • In December, the UK Department for Business launched a consultation on proposals to amend the UK Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Regulations to reduce the burdens on business and improve the effectiveness of the UK system. The closing date for responses is 6 April 2009.
  • Meanwhile, in the EU, the Commission has produced plans to revise the WEEE directive and its sister directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances (RoHS) in electrical and electronic equipment. In respect of WEEE, the Commission proposes placing further responsibility on producers for WEEE generated from private households, providing that, ‘where appropriate’, governments should ‘encourage producers to finance all the cost occurring for collection facilities for WEEE from private households’. This move could signal a significant extension of financial liability for producers, who are currently liable only for the cost of collection of WEEE from municipal collection facilities. A further proposal to make producers responsible for meeting an annual WEEE collection target of at least 65 per cent by weight of WEEE products placed on the market will also have significant financial implications. With respect to RoHS, the Commission proposes extending the existing regime to include medical devices and industrial monitoring and control instruments, and increasing the scope for firms to apply for exemptions from substance bans on the basis of ‘socioeconomic’ criteria. A list of ‘priority’ substances posing particular environmental concerns would be assessed in line with REACHstyle procedures with a view to a possible ban in the future.