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Echa proposal for SME free access to REACH data rejected

The REACH Directors’ Contact Group (DCG) has rejected a proposal by Echa to grant small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) conditional free access to REACH data and joint submissions for the May 2018 registration deadline.

The DCG is an informal group of directors from the European Commission, Echa and industry associations. It was set up to respond to concerns arising from companies’ REACH registration obligations.

Instead, at its meeting on 15 December, it recommended lead registrants and substance information exchange forum (Sief) managers offer first-time registrants the opportunity to make “an affordable lump sum payment”. This could help “reduce the administrative burden” of joining an existing joint submission – and the risk of a data-sharing dispute, it said.

The DCG suggested three other actions:

  • explore data-waiving arguments: companies should check whether they are exempted from providing (eco)toxicological data with their registration and could register only with physicochemical data. Those who can register with only physico-chemical data should get access to the data and joint submission at reduced or no costs;
  • address situations caused by late data-sharing negotiations or pending dispute decisions: first-time registrants can file a data-sharing dispute with Echa if negotiations for data access have stalled. They will be able to submit their registration dossier while negotiations or the dispute process are ongoing. Echa will clarify how it will deal with these dossiers in January; and
  • allow payment in instalments: if a one-time payment of the letter of access (LoA) is unaffordable for the first-time registrant – and they can justify why – lead registrants and Sief managers should consider granting the registrant the opportunity to pay in instalments.

The recommendations, which come less than six months before the registration deadline, are “too little, too late”, UK Chemical Business Association (CBA) CEO Peter Newport said.

In 2013, CBA presented the idea to Echa and the European Commission of free access to LoAs for companies registering substances between one and ten tonnes, as well as staged payments.

“It is extremely frustrating,” Mr Newport added, “that solutions identified four years ago have been kicked down the road to the point that less than six months before the deadline Echa and the Commission still cannot get anything substantive agreed.”

He said once Echa’s proposal of free access became public, many companies evaluating the costs of registering were saying, “I’m not going to start doing a registration until I know what the situation is”.

Echa has been busy gearing up for a last-minute push, but Echa “is also creating a last-minute push by its own inactivity,” Mr Newport added. It is creating “a perfect storm”.

The DCG recommendations apply only to access existing data for registering substances by the May 2018 deadline and not to sharing costs of creating new data or providing information, for example in response to Echa’s substance evaluation decision.

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