On 10 September 2015, the European Court of Justice delivered the much anticipated decision for Case C-106/14 on the interpretation of “articles” under the REACH regulation. The presence of Substances of Very High Concern (SVHC) in articles must be calculated for each component and not the entire article. For example, the SVHC content in a bicycle must now be considered separately for the wheel, the handlebar grip, the frame, etc, and not the overall average SVHC content by calculating the bicycle as one article.
This decision ended years of uncertainty about the correct interpretation of SVHC calculation in articles. Previously, the European Commission (EC) and the majority of Member States considered an article that is assembled from several components as one single article, and this interpretation was used in the guidance document, Guidance on requirements for substances in articles, published by the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). However, seven countries (Austria, France, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Sweden and Norway) never agreed with this interpretation, and in 2013, six of the countries jointly published a guidance to explain the case of articles assembled from single components. The guidance states that once an object is classified as an article, it is always an article, and, therefore, the SVHC calculation should be based on the weight of a single component since it is itself an article.
With the Court’s decision, the interpretation is now clear and that it is necessary to possess information on SVHC down to the component level. This may lead to more articles meeting the Candidate List obligations (summarised in the Table 1). As EU importers will expect their suppliers to provide all the necessary information on their products at the component level, this will undoubtedly cause additional pressures upstream in the supply chain.
Candidate List obligations triggered by SVHC content in an article at concentration >0.1% by weight
Communication Obligation according to REACH Article 33