Under the European Union’s regime on chemicals (REACH), companies manufacturing or importing chemical substances have to notify considerable amounts of data to the European Chemicals Agency (ECHA). Under the general ‘no data, no market’ rule, those chemicals for which no appropriate risk assessment and risk management has been carried out, cannot be put on the market. What may seem a futile part of compliance – paying the correct registration fee – has now come back to haunt several companies.
ECHA’s machinery needs to be financed. Companies registering substances under REACH to that end pay a registration fee. Micro or small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) receive a discount. Those incorrectly classifying themselves as small, have now had their comeuppance: ECHA has rejected their registrations, effectively meaning that the companies involved can no longer manufacture or import the substance above one ton per annum.
Lessons are clear. Firstly, one should always be careful with statements of size. Secondly, ECHA bites. It is one of only a few of the European Union’s Agencies which is truly ‘regulatory’ (also on issues of chemicals policy much more relevant than size).