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EU Parliament giving a Free Pass to Vendors?

In the summer of 2023, when the European Parliament voted on the Ecodesign for Sustainable Products Regulation (ESPR) – of which the Digital Product Passports are a part, there were quite some concerned voices heard.

The cause for the concern was that the Parliament left online marketplaces unaccountable in the case the products there do not comply with the ESPR rules. See here for example:

It was described as "leave out online sales" and " giving a free pass to online vendors".

But was it really?

There was no change in the responsibility of producers to follow ESPR, including providing a digital product passport for each product. The way we read it, it places the responsibility solely with the producer, removing it from the online marketplace.

"But physical stores are not exempt!" you might object. Quite correct, the difference is the phenomenon of drop shipping. Much of how the big online vendors work is just like a giant, structured bulletin board and transaction hub. Often, the products are shipped directly from producer to consumers, without being handled at all by the online vendor. Not much they can do in those cases to inspect the physical products for compliance, is there?

But what they CAN do, and MUST do, is to adjust their site design and publishing process to demand, process and display Digital Product Passport data on the site. An open question is wether they should prevent products from being displayed unless they are accompanied by a digital product passport, or if that will be to difficult to manage for those who sell both to and beyond the EU.

The least we can expect (require?) is a clear signal for the absence of digital product passports, no?

  • How do you interpret the decision to exclude online vendors from ESPR by the European Parliament?

  • What would be the best way to handle digital product passports for online vendors, do you think?

Image: © European Union 2023 - Source : EP, Photographer: Brigitte HASE, Reference: EP-153542L

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