Unfair trading practices
The European Commission adopted beginning of this year a European Retail Action Plan and a Green Paper on unfair trading practices in the business-to-business food and non-food supply chain in which the Commission identified a number of barriers which remain and hinder the smooth functioning of cross-border sourcing, consumer access to cross-border retail services and market entry for retailers.
According to the Commission, two major challenges exist in the EU retail sector: (i) restrictions on establishment; and more generally, (ii) lack of competitiveness in the retail sector, in particular in some Member States, and a need to reduce barriers and operational restrictions. The Commission Action Plan aims to address the key obstacles identified by setting out a strategy to improve the competitiveness of the retail sector and enhance its economic, environmental and social performance. It aims at presenting a coherent European strategy by putting forward eleven concrete actions that have a direct impact on retail and address the issues identified.
In parallel, the Commission launched a public consultation on its Green Paper on unfair trade practices (UTPs) in the business-to-business food and non-food supply chain. Over the years, unfair practices in relationships between suppliers and buyers have increasingly been seen by public authorities as an important political issue. As a result, many Member States have taken actions to address the issue of UTPs but have done so in different ways. This has led to a high degree of divergence in terms of the level, nature and legal form of protection provided against UTPs at national level. Some national frameworks are statutory while others are self-regulatory, some are sector-specific while other apply across the board, some address certain UTPs while other don't. The consultation launched by the Green Paper will help the Commission in the assessment of the national rules applicable to UTPs. All interested parties are invited to submit their views in response to the questions raised in the Green Paper by 30 April 2013. As a follow-up to this Green Paper and on the basis of the responses received, the Commission will announce the next steps by mid-2013.
On 5 February 2013, the European Commission adopted its General Report on REACH, which gives an overview of what has been achieved under the REACH regulation to date. The review concludes that while some adjustments are needed, no major overhaul is required. However, the Commission outlines that it will explore ways to reduce the financial impact of the Regulation, in particular for SMEs, inter alias, by reviewing the distribution of registration fees to grant greater reductions to SMEs and by asking ECHA to provide more specific guidance on transparency, non-discrimination and fair cost sharing. The Commission also proposes more specific recommendations from the Commission to reduce the impact of the Regulation on SMEs are presented in an annex to this report.
During the next few months the revision of REACH will be object of extensive debate within the institutions and among stakeholders. In addition, in cooperation with Member States and ECHA, the Commission is developing a roadmap to assess and identify substances of very high concern (SVHC). It will set out clear milestones, deliverables and the division of work between the Commission, Member States and ECHA to place all relevant known SVHC on the candidate list by 2020.
The next deadline under the REACH regulation is 31 May 2013, by when industry must register all phase-in substances manufactured or imported in the EU at or above 100 tonnes a year.