Small IT retailers are footing an unfairly large chunk of the bill for the UK government's much-delayed regulations for disposing of junked electronic kit, a trade group has claimed.
The UK government's implementation of the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive is "fundamentally flawed", according to the Independent Trade Association of Computing Specialists (ITACS).
Hendy Armstrong, secretary and committee member of ITACS, said in a statement that cost increases could be "up to 15 times higher" for small IT businesses.
She also said internet retailers and larger stores were at an "unfair" advantage with the new WEEE regulations.
Businesses were given a deadline of 15 March 2007 to sign up to a compulsory producer compliance scheme (PCS), effectively making suppliers of IT kit responsible for the environmentally sound removal of electrical and electronic equipment (EEE).
After a lengthy delay, the European Commission's WEEE directive became UK law in January 2007, and as of July this year responsibility will rest squarely with producers and suppliers.
In an attempt to clarify the new environmental legislation, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) issued guidelines in February this year. It highlighted a number of "obligations" businesses should expect from the European directive.
But Armstrong said that "the operating framework adopted by the government is fundamentally flawed, inequitable and a serious threat not only to the viability of thousands of small information technology businesses throughout the country but also tens of thousands of IT sector jobs".
ITACS outlined several areas of what it described as "the unequal implementation and operating costs of WEEE compliance".
It said that registration fees for the distributor take-back scheme (DCF), which is free of charge for consumers returning end-of-life equipment to the retailer when they are purchasing new products, were "disproportionate".
However, the DTI told The Reg that "large retailers are paying 88 per cent of the £10m cost of the local authority WEEE collection network".
It also said it had consulted on draft WEEE proposals with small businesses as early as last summer and that a three-tier fee structure had been drawn up, which it hoped would go some way to dealing with the burdens associated with the new law.
"The government has been keen to work with small businesses and their representative organisations to ensure they are not disproportionately affected," the DTI said.
It said that as part of the commission's ongoing review of the WEEE directive the government had suggested "a de minimis be considered for small businesses".
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