A recent study on the segmentation of the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) market confirms uncertainties regarding the SMEs’ intentions to register their substances by the 31 May 2018 deadline. The main hurdle seems to be the cost of data needed for registration. It also makes recommendations for the Agency on how to convince SMEs to use and benefit from the ECHA Cloud Services.
The study, commissioned by ECHA, gathered insights on the SME market structure, mainly for marketing the recently launched ECHA Cloud Services giving SMEs online access to IUCLID. It also collected information on the SMEs’ intentions to register by the last registration deadline on 31 May 2018 and analysed issues these smaller companies face in the registration process.
Three types of SME market segments were introduced, based on the SMEs’ role within REACH and their attitudes towards registration:
- Product builders and suppliers that manufacture and import substances and have direct registration duties. This segment is further divided into companies that have a good understanding of REACH and have set aside resources for registration; companies who are not sure whether or not they have to register; and SMEs who fear losing their businesses as they cannot afford to register.
- Advice givers that assists and guide the first segment.
- Experts, who are either service providers or in-house experts.
Among these segments, the key finding is that while most SMEs (95 % of the respondents) are aware of their duties, a sizeable number struggle with the high costs of registration, in particular, the costs for letters of access and participating in the substance information exchange forums (SIEFs). As a result, a proportion of companies are rationalising their substance portfolios and finding alternative solutions, for example, reconsidering their production and import volumes to remain below the one tonne per year threshold that triggers registration obligations.
Regarding the ECHA Cloud Services, ECHA will have to carefully consider how to improve its stakeholders’ perception of privacy and security of the service.
The study proposes actions for ECHA, the Member States and the European Commission to help SMEs register by the 2018 deadline and to prevent the negative impact of their failure to do so on European competitiveness and employment. These actions include, for example, mobilising resources to support SMEs in their registration obligations, and helping SMEs challenge the SIEF costs if necessary. It also recommends making information on funding more easily available. The full list of suggestions can be seen at the end of the Executive Summary.
ECHA has already started looking into solutions that could improve the situation for struggling SMEs and is discussing them with the Commission and different industry stakeholders that take part in the Directors’ Contact Group. This group was set up in 2010 to monitor the overall readiness of companies and to identify and resolve issues of concern relevant to REACH registration.