Publicly displaying the value of bids from compliance schemes for regulation 34 requests during the bidding process will not contravene anti-competition laws under a WEEE balancing system.
That’s according to Martin Fortune, director of the WEEE Allocation Scheme (WAS) UK, who was speaking at the WEEE conference in London earlier this week, organised by letsrecycle.com.
Mr Fortune was discussing possible alternatives to the current Producer Compliance Scheme Balancing System (PBS) model. At present this is run by Anthesis for the WEEE Scheme Forum.
Under the current model, members of the PBS have five working days to deal with a Regulation 34 request. This is made by a local authority when it hasn’t been able to arrange a collection for its waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).
Last year, the PBS was involved in a particularly high number of local authorities, although Anthesis told the conference that this year, it was generally more remote locations such as islands who were making Regulation 34 requests.
Under the PBS system, a request from a local authority is then circulated to all members, who can take the request before it enters the system. The second round sees all members bid anonymously, with the compliance scheme with the best offer chosen.
The majority of compliance schemes are signed up to the current PBS, which is run by Anthesis and is currently voluntary. However, some companies have dropped out of the scheme, including DixonsCarphone and others.
In May, Defra also announced it was to make membership of a PBS Mandatory ( see letsrecycle.com story) , Although what form this takes has not been confirmed.
Under the proposed method drawn up by WAS UK, which Dixons Carphone is a founding member of, the tender process is two weeks instead of five days and all bids are publicly displayed, but don’t state the names of the bidder.
Evidence can also be traded at a later date if compliance schemes have excess WEEE in an effort to incentivise collection.
Richard Peagam, associate director of Anthesis, had previously explained at the conference that under the current model, all bidding is anonymous so as not to contravene anti-competition law.
Mr Peagam said: “From a service provider point of view, you look at a contract and look at the risk assessment of that. If the contract says you are doing something risky such as contravening with competition law it can be disastrous, if it goes wrong you go down with them.
But, he suggested a more cautious approach needed to be taken in terms of competition.
“I find it comforting that the WEEE Scheme Forum takes it seriously that things are confidential… A competition lawyer could take a look at that, but we’re most comfortable with our way which is sensible and pragmatic.”
The Anthesis associate director added that at the moment this is “hypothetical” as it is unclear what will happen between now and January 2019 with regards to a mandatory balancing system.
In response, Mr Fortune said that before launching the scheme he took legal advice on the issue of publicly displaying bids, and said that as it helps get the best possible price, it will not lessen competition.
“Everything out in the open isn’t anti-competitive,” he explained.
“We took legal advice at the beginning and we were told the best way to avoid anti-competition behaviour or even accusations is to publish everything. If it is in the public domain it is hard to breach,” he stated.
Concluding the session, Graeme Vickery, senior policy advisor at Defra, gave his views on a balancing system, explaining that producers should pay for the high cost of WEEE collections from commercially unattractive locations.
“My position is that nobody wants this WEEE. It doesn’t matter if you are small or not, collecting a high tonnage from Local authorities or none at all, the point is, producers have got to pay for this high cost collection. It seems logical that if producers pay for this high cost collection, then the right answer is to ensure that all producers make a contribution.
“That is the fairest way of dealing with high cost collections and however we tackle the reg34 in the future it should be at the heart of it – remember that there are high cost collections that need to be made, and this should be borne by all producers from day one, which is fair.”