EU RoHS and EEE Peripherals or Accessories

Question: Electric and electronic equipment (EEE) is in scope for the European Union (EU) Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) Directive. The definition of EEE under the EU RoHS Directive is well-established. What about peripherals or accessories that aren't themselves clearly EEE, though? Are they also in scope of the RoHS Directive?

Answer: This is a complex and challenging issue, and sometimes the answer can come down to an interpretation made by an individual enforcement authority within one of the EU member states. However, there are some guidelines that help clarify the situation and limit "gray areas."

  1. Peripherals and accessories that are EEE. Some peripherals or accessories, such as a computer mouse or keyboard, are themselves clearly EEE. If a product meets the definition of EEE (and does not belong to a specifically excluded category), then it is in scope.
  2. Peripherals and accessories that have electrical circuitry or otherwise connect electrically to a product during use. Printer cartridges are a common example of this type of accessory; they include electrical circuitry in their casing, which lets them connect to the printer. These items would be in scope, whether supplied with the product or bought as a separate item later.
  3. Peripherals and accessories without any electrical or electronic parts. These items are outside the scope of the EU RoHS Directive, unless sold as a package of equipment with the EEE product (see item 5 below). However, some items may have non-obvious electrical parts; for instance, users may not realize that printer cartridges (see item 2 above) include electrical circuitry.
    • The European Commission's FAQ on RoHS 2 specifically mentions compact disks (CDs) and optical cables as examples of peripherals that are not in scope because they do not contain any electrical or electronic parts.
  4. Items sold with EEE that would, separately, also be fully functional. If a product is sold with included EEE, but both the EEE component and the non-EEE product could be fully functional on their own, then the non-EEE component is not in scope.
    • The European Commission's RoHS FAQ uses the example of a wardrobe with electric lights. If only the lights are EEE, and if both the lights and the wardrobe can be separated and each used individually without the other component, then the lights are in scope but the wardrobe is not.
  5. Peripherals or accessories sold as part of a kit. If non-EEE accessories are sold as part of a package with an EEE product, even if the accessories are optional to the function of the main product, they are still considered to be in scope. For instance, if a box of different drill bits is sold as a kit with a power drill, the bits are all in scope as well as the drill itself.
    • This guidance may sometimes seem to conflict with items 3 and 4, above, so decisions need to be made on a case-by-case basis.

Whenever companies make a decision about a scope issue, they should be especially diligent in documenting the decision-making process in the event of any future challenge or change in official guidance. Considerations include the available guidance on any similar cases and the company's own tolerance for risk. They should also consider seeking independent legal advice. 

Reference:

EU RoHS Frequently Asked Questions (PDF, European Commission)

See Also:

Determining If A Product Is EEE

EU RoHS - Formal Definition of EEE

EU RoHS - Excluded EEE Categories Not In Scope

EU RoHS Scoping Example - Electronic Lockset Kit

Article content is current as of 2020-12-04.

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