EU RoHS vs. China RoHS

In 2006, the Chinese Ministry of Information Industry circulated the long-awaited “Management Methods for Controlling Pollution Caused by Electronic Information Products Regulation” (usually called “China RoHS”). Manufacturers, importers, and some retailers will have to adhere to the China RoHS regulations after March 2007. The China RoHS is similar to the EU RoHS in that it restricts certain hazardous substances in consumer products and in packaging materials.

However, the China RoHS is in fact quite different from its EU counterpart in a few significant ways. In fact, China RoHS was developed entirely separately from the EU regulations and in many ways is stricter. China RoHS includes automotive medical devices, manufacturing equipment, components, electronics, radar equipment, certain raw materials, and packaging materials. However, China RoHS does not include home appliances and toys within its regulations (although components of these products might have to comply with China RoHS).

China RoHS will be implemented in a few phases. The first phase, which begins in 2007, will require companies to simply indicate on product labels whether a product contain specific restricted materials. The second phase will restrict specific substances in products. However, the exact timeframe for this second phase has not yet been revealed. So far, there are four types of marks or labels required on products:

  1. A label indicating whether any of the six hazardous substances – lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, PBB, or PBDE – are present in the product. If they are present, another label is needed which indicates the "Environment-Friendly Use Period" (EFUP) – the date until which the hazardous substances will not leak or cause environmental pollution.
  2. A table in the manual, packaging, or documentation of the product that shows which hazardous materials are in the product and which components contain the materials. This is a much stricter requirement than the EU RoHS and may require additional testing and product research to determine.
  3. The type of packaging material used needs to be described on the outside packaging.
  4. If a EFUP label is needed, a date of manufacture must be clearly marked on the product.

There are other differences between the EU and China RoHS regulations as well. The China regulations make everyone in the supply chain responsible for non-compliance, while only importers, manufacturers and some retailers are subject to penalties in the EU version. The China RoHS also requires more disclosure – the Certificates of Compliance from suppliers that are adequate under EU regulations may not be enough. If you ship affected products into China your product will need to be tested by one of the approved labs in China and your product will need CCC accreditation (China Compulsory Certification) as well. The testing for compliance might be very extensive, too – you may need to test not only every component of your product, but also the materials in every component.

Some companies are wondering how strictly China RoHS will be enforced. China, after all, does not have an outstanding record of enforcing anti-counterfeiting and intellectual property laws. It would be dangerous for companies to assume that China RoHS is in letter only. China actually enforces its environmental laws quite strictly and the fact that China RoHS is stricter in many ways that its EU counterpart suggests that China RoHS will in fact be enforced quite closely.

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