What does the Packaging Act mean for online retail?
The amendment to the Packaging Act has been in force since July 3, 2021. This has changed a lot for online retailers, especially the obligations for fulfillment service providers and operators of electronic marketplaces. You can find out what this means in detail here.
Why is online trade affected by the Packaging Act?
The Packaging Act affects anyone who puts packaging into circulation commercially in Germany. This applies to sales packaging that accumulates as waste after use by end consumers, as well as to all other packaging filled with goods. Since the amendment of the Packaging Act, manufacturers and distributors of transport packaging, reusable packaging and deposit-liable disposable packaging, for example, are also obliged to register with the ZSVR.
Online trade therefore falls under the Packaging Act because shipping cartons, filling materials and other packaging materials are in particular circulation here. These accrue as waste after use by end consumers and therefore count as packaging subject to system participation.
Important to know: There are no de minimis limits in the Packaging Act. This means that even small quantities of packaging material must be licensed, i.e. participate in a dual system. This means that anyone who puts small quantities of shipping cartons into circulation via their own online store, for example, is subject to the Packaging Act.
What obligations does the Packaging Act impose on online retailers?
Both online retailers who operate their own store and those who sell via electronic marketplaces (e.g. Amazon, ebay, etc.) are subject to obligations under the Packaging Act. Packaging placed on the market for the first time, such as shipping cartons, is subject to system participation. This means that an online retailer must participate these in a dual system via packaging licensing.
In this context, there are further obligations for online retailers:
- Even before placing on the market, an online retailer must register with the Central Agency Packaging Register – ZSVR. This controls compliance with the legal obligations under the Packaging Act. Without registration, a manufacturer may not place packaged goods on the market in Germany.
- The second step is the licensing of the planned packaging quantities for the next year. This refers to the quantities that online retailers must also participate in a dual system. It can be helpful to use a calculator for this and thus obtain an overview of one's own quantities and participation costs even before the licensing is completed.
- Finally, online retailers are required to report data to the ZSVR. This means that the participating quantities must be indicated under the personal registration number. The participating dual system also indicates the quantities so that data reconciliation can take place.
- Incidentally, goods from abroad that are imported into Germany for resale are also covered by the Packaging Act. The person importing the goods must be registered with the ZSVR and license his packaging.
- And: The EPR, i.e. extended producer responsibility, also applies to online retailers if they operate on the European market.
What does the amendment to the Packaging Act mean for fulfillment and import?
The amendment to the Packaging Act will also change the obligations for fulfillment service providers and operators of electronic marketplaces on July 1, 2022.
A fulfillment service provider handles both the storage and packaging of goods on behalf of online retailers operating through it. When a product is ordered, the fulfillment service provider may ship it in its in-house shipping cartons, while the product and its direct repackaging originate from the online retailer. One example of this is Amazon.
WHAT WILL CHANGE FROM JULY 1, 2022?
Fulfillment service providers must register with the ZSVR. However, what will no longer automatically fall under their obligations is system participation.
Instead, those online retailers that use fulfillment will be considered first movers. As such, they must comply with their system participation and data reporting obligations, as well as packaging licensing.
As of July 1, 2022, fulfillment service providers as well as operators of electronic marketplaces are legally obligated to verify the proper registration and system participation of their merchants. If they fail to meet this obligation, they will not be allowed to provide their services. They must then license only the packaging that is placed on the market for the first time by their company (such as company-owned shipping cartons, like those available at Amazon).
Online retailers can provide the necessary proof with a so-called system participation confirmation.
In the case of imports, the person who imports the goods into the area of application of the Packaging Act is responsible for registration and system participation. This also applies accordingly to online retailers who import products from abroad in order to resell them in this country. This regulation also applies if the importing online retailer uses a dropshipping or fulfillment service provider.
I am an online merchant: where can I get a system participation confirmation?
If you are an online retailer and do not have your own store but sell goods via a fulfillment service provider or an electronic marketplace, you will need a system participation confirmation for this from July 1, 2022. With this, you provide proof that you are properly registered with the ZSVR and that your packaging has participated in a dual system.
You will receive such a system participation confirmation directly from zmart, for example, if you participate your small quantities in the Zentek dual system. Upon completion of your legally compliant packaging licensing, you will also receive the confirmation.
Conclusion: The amendment to the Packaging Act places online retailers under greater scrutiny
Even before the amendment to the Packaging Act, online retailers were required to participate in the system for the packaging they put into circulation. From July 1, 2022, they will also have to prove via a system participation confirmation that their packaging volumes are properly participated. Especially if they cooperate with a fulfillment provider or an electronic marketplace.
The latter are required by the amendment to verify the system participation of online retailers operating through them. Without proper registration and system participation of the merchants and without fulfilling the verification obligation, both parties are not allowed to sell goods in Germany.
If you as an online retailer want to license your packaging directly online, for example via zmart, you will receive the system participation confirmation directly with it. In this way, you have fulfilled all the obligations imposed by the Packaging Act with just a few clicks.