RoHS: Understanding the Directive & Compliance

What is the RoHS directive?

RoHS is a European Union directive relating to electronics and electronic device manufacturing. Specifically, the RoHS directive – Restriction of Hazardous Substances – limits the use of ten hazardous materials commonly found in electrical and electronic equipment and goods (EEE). It means that any relevant product that came to market after 1 July 2006 must pass RoHS compliance. The purpose of the directive is twofold: to reduce the pollution and prevent environmental damage caused by the restricted materials – such as during recycling or waste disposal – and to reduce the health risks associated with exposure to them.

RoHS applies to any business intending to directly sell, distribute or manufacture electronic and electrical products in the EU. Furthermore, it also applies indirectly, for example if a business sells such products to a third party who distributes in the EU. Since it is a directive, rather than a regulation, the RoHS is legally binding for all EU members but allows for some differences in implementation and enforcement.

Key details about the RoHS directive

RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) marking on a box with electronic product

RoHS compliance: responsibility and enforcement

Compliance with the directive is concerned with EEE products that are placed on the EU market, not specifically with manufacturing. This means that an electric or electronic product that contains the restricted materials only violates the RoHS once it is distributed or sold in the EU. Therefore, responsibility to comply with RoHS also lies with the retailer and importer of the product, not just the manufacturer.

Manufacturers, distributors and importers of EEE products must adhere to certain documentation and labelling standards in order to show compliance. This includes labelling products within the scope of RoHS with the CE mark, which also indicates compliance with a range of other health and safety standards. In addition, they must provide a Declaration of Conformity per product, stating that it does not contain any of the restricted substances listed in the directive.

Failure to comply with the RoHS directive is penalised on a national basis by enforcement bodies, and the consequences can therefore differ considerably between EU member states. Typically, however, penalties for non-compliance involve a fine.

More interesting topics to read about

More information about RoHS product groups

See here for more details about the certified product groups covered under the RoHS directive, from consumer electronics to appliances, and about why non-electrical items may also be covered.

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