Legislation in the electronics industry — the cost of compliance.: Page 2 of 3

June 18, 2014 // By Jean-Pierre Joosting
Aspen Electronics has been in the business of distributing electronic test equipment and components to literally thousands of customers in the UK and Europe for over 40 years. One thing that has become more demanding says MD Howard Venning, when reviewing the changes that have occurred over that time, is the need to demonstrate compliance with legislation.
Dealing with US legislation is far more onerous. US export controls have been in place for many years. The EAR regulations have always focussed on making sure US products were not shipped direct to or indirectly to undesirable countries, customer or end uses. Whilst the countries, customers and end uses have changes, the basics have not and anyone importing products from the USA should know what is required.

More recently the USA introduced the ITAR regulations which applied in parallel to the EAR regulations and therefore became far more demanding. As the implications of non-compliance came to the fore, organisations, typically the major defence contractors introduced their own compliance regimes to ensure they could demonstrate they had everything under control. Our experience has revealed marked differences in the way ITAR regulations are interpreted by both manufacturers and customers, again adding to the cost of compliance.

With any of the previously mentioned EU directives there are numerous exclusions. For example, the WEEE directive has a de minimis clause that exempts “small producers” (those that produce less than 5 tonnes of electrical waste per year) from joining a Producer Compliance Scheme. Another example is the use of lead in other electrical and electronic applications as defined in the RoHS regulations. Whilst the general idea is to prohibit the use of lead, certain applications are exempt and a small amount of lead is permitted in, for example, certain types of solder.

However, the latest piece of legislation to arrive from the USA has no exceptions or exclusions. This possibly unique piece of legislation is the requirement to comply with the ‘Frank-Dodd’ act, otherwise known as the Conflict Minerals Act. The conflict minerals act has no de minimis clause and therefore no matter how small you are as an organisation, or your “use” is of any of the minerals controlled under the act, you must comply. This is almost an impossible task that will certainly demand many hours of research, emails, letters etc. as you keep your customer, and their customer and their customer, happy as the effects of this legislation goes up and down the supply chain.

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