MEPs endorse full producer liability for cars

Manufacturers to pay for recycling new vehicles; uncertainty maintained over retroactivity

Car manufacturers will pay all or a significant part of the costs of scrapping new cars, the European Parliament confirmed today in its second-reading of the draft end-of-life vehicles directive. But the complex series of votes has resulted in the final text both imposing and exempting firms from producer responsibility for existing cars and possibly pushing back the entry into force of producer responsibility for new cars by a year or more.

Recycling targets agreed by ministers last year remain unchanged. But the Parliament called for bans on the use of lead, cadmium, mercury and hexavalent chromium in new cars to be delayed for up to a decade.

The full parliament rejected two key amendments advanced by German MEPs Karl-Heinz Florenz and Bernd Lange, both aiming to delete producer responsibility for existing cars, which ministers want to take effect from 2006. Mr Florenz wanted costs to be shared equally with consumers. Mr Lange wanted the costs of treating existing cars to come from a tax on new car sales.

Green MEPs hailed the votes as a "victory for the environment and consumers," and their sentiments have been echoed by environmental groups. Environment commissioner Margot Wallström said she was "satisfied" with the result and "hoped it would make it easier" to apply similar provisions to waste electronic equipment.

However, the Parliament accepted another Lange amendment to the key article imposing producer responsibility which applies it only to cars "approved from 18 months after the entry into force of the directive".

This has two implications. First, it suggests that producer responsibility on new cars would not take effect for at least a year after the January 2001 start date agreed by ministers. Secondly, it appears to exclude any cars put on the market earlier than 18 months after the directive's entry into force from being subject to producer responsibility. Both elements contradict provisions maintained elsewhere in the text that new cars should be subject to producer responsibility from 2001 and existing cars from 2006.

The European car makers association Acea responded by claiming that Parliament had "not solved the core issue of retroactivity, neither legally nor commercially," adding that manufacturers were "still left with uncertainties with regard to the financial...burden for the more than 160m vehicles currently on the road". Mr Lange said he believed the issue would now have to be settled through conciliation with ministers.

A Commission official close to the document admitted the uncertainty was worrying, though he said the other changes to the text approved by Parliament were sufficiently minor and "technical" to be resolved without long conciliation talks.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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