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UAE's RoHS-like regulation causing 'mass confusion'

Places - Dubai UAE ©Alexandr Vlassyuk -

The United Arab Emirates' has failed to implement a system that enables companies to meet information requirements under its Regulation on the Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) in electronics, according to Michael Kirschner of consultant Design Chain Associates.

The Regulation, which was enacted in April 2017 and came into effect on January 1 this year, places restrictions on the following substances in electrical and electronic equipment (EEE):

  • lead (Pb);
  • mercury (Hg);
  • cadmium (Cd);
  • hexavalent chromium (Cr6+);
  • polybrominated biphenyls (PBB); and
  • polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE).

Since January, it has been necessary for electronics manufacturers to provide a national UAE RoHS declaration of compliance (DoC) and obtain a certificate to put EEE products on the market.

But a bottleneck has emerged, with the Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (Esma), only issuing 187 certificates so far. It has a further 213 applications waiting to be processed.

Under the regulation, companies must provide a DoC and technical documentation before putting a product on the market, whereas under the EU RoHS, this information would only be required by enforcement agencies if there was a suspected issue.

The technical files will be assessed by "notified bodies", but Esma has not yet put this system in place, according to Mr Kirschner.

He told Chemical Watch: "They were unable to implement their system in a reasonable time prior to when the Regulation went into force. Electronics manufacturers who wanted to sell products in the UAE were not certified by January. They failed to put in a system in time to enable that, so now what they have is mass confusion."

"By going way beyond where any other regulator is and failing to put in the correct infrastructure to support that, they’ve really hung themselves out on a limb," he said.

"They needed to define what is acceptable and not acceptable in terms of documentation. There is no clear defined standard that tells you at a detailed level what is and is not acceptable."

Due diligence

A spokesperson for Esma told Chemical Watch that the delays in certificates being issued was caused by companies making late applications and not providing the correct documentation.  

They added that manufacturers are already required to draw up technical documentation prior to issuing the EU DoC and the UAE RoHS "simply requested for these technical documentation (which should have been there if EU DoCs are already issued) as proof of compliance prior to approval of the product."

Providing the technical documentation should not be an issue, if manufacturers had already done due diligence, they said.

'Unnecessary obstacles'

In a joint position paper published last year, DigitalEurope and the Information Technology Industry Council (ITI) called for Esma to "avoid creating unnecessary obstacles to trade, help ensure a consistent legal framework and maintain the UAE as our key import hub for electronics".

The trade bodies raised concern about the requirement for electronics companies to register their products under either the Emirates Conformity Assessment Scheme (Ecas) or the Emirates Quality Mark (EMQ).

They argue Ecas registration requirements do not provide a higher level of compliance assurance and the EMQ requirements and scope are not clear.

The required evaluation of the risk assessment of every product requiring UAE RoHS certification will be "very burdensome for Esma and costly for the registrants," the trade bodies say.

Also, if a UAE RoHS certification of a product is only valid for a year and needs to be repeated, this would "create a structural burden and cost to import electronics in the UAE," they say.

The paper calls on Esma to align "with good global regulatory practice which is based on the presumption of conformity, when a product is declared compliant with published standards" such as EN 50581 and its global equivalent IEC 63000.

From 1 January 2020, restrictions will come into effect for medical devices, in vitro diagnostic medical devices, monitoring and control instruments, industrial monitoring and control instruments, and "category 11 devices", which are defined as other EEE not on the products listed but which fit the Regulation's definition under Article 1.

The trade groups warn in their paper that some medical devices and monitoring and control instruments, which are sold in small quantity compared to other products, might become unavailable on the UAE market because of a "rapid and significant increase of cost".

Restrictions on DEHP, BBP, DBP and DIBP in electrical and electronic equipment will also apply between 2020 and 2022.

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