Irish customers cannot buy electronic goods on Amazon
A dispute over the government's interpretation of the European Union's Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) has resulted in Irish consumers being unable to purchase electrical or electronic equipment from some British websites, like Amazon.
If Irish consumers were able to do so, they would reap significant benefits, as the prices on offer, as well as the choices, are often superior to those offered in Irish retail outlets or even websites in other, more distant countries.
The WEEE directive was brought in by the EU in 2003. It imposes the responsibility for the disposal of waste electrical and electronic equipment on the manufacturers of such equipment. The cost of this has now been added onto the electrical goods for the consumer to pay.
The government department charged with implementing the WEEE legislation is the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. They state that the requirement for 'distance sellers' to pay the costs of disposing of electrical or electronic equipment in the countries where they sell is mandated by the EU directive. Some countries have interpreted the directive differently and have concluded that 'distance sellers' from outside the EU cannot be responsible under the directive, as they are often not the producers, and so should not have to pay.
Many 'distance sellers' are simply individuals who use websites such as Amazon.co.uk as a virtual marketplace from where they can offer goods at cheaper prices than high street retail outlets, due to their lower overheads. They feel that the imposition of WEEE charges is onerous on such small businesses, and have chosen not to sell to Irish consumers, rather than increase their prices. Such increases, as seen in Irish stores where new costs were passed on to the consumer upon the introduction of the directive, would erode the distance sellers' competitive advantage.
Highly profitable large companies like Amazon are also refusing to pay the charges of registering with the Irish WEEE body. In addition, they object to having to display the actual cost of WEEE charges on their prices, an obligation imposed by Ireland and some other EU states, but not Britain.
A spokesperson for the National Consumer Agency says that her organisation has recently received an increased number of complaints from the Irish public, irritated by what they see as their inability to get the full value of the EU marketplace.
Village contacted the EU Commission in relation to the dispute, but they had not been aware of it.