UK ‘shambolic’ in applying European radio rules, says industry

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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A trade association says the UK is late and wrong in the way it is implementing a rule that applies to all equipment that sends and receives radio waves

A British industry trade association has condemned the government as “shambolic” for the way it is introducing European regulations over all equipment that emits radio waves.

The UK government is asking for comments on the Radio Equipment Directive by next week – a year after it should have brought in the country’s version of the European Union (EU)’s Radio Equipment Directive, which was published in 2014 and came into full effect on 13 June 2016.

But members of techUK – which has 950 members, including BT and Vodafone, and equipment makers such as Ericsson – have pointed out inconsistencies in the wording between the EU directive and the UK version.

“The way it’s been implemented has been shambolic, costing the tech sector millions to comply,” said Paul Hide, techUK’s COO.

The government has set a deadline of 14 August – next Monday – for responses.

The directive, in the UK government’s legal wording, applies to “an electrical or electronic product, which intentionally emits and/or receives radio waves” at frequencies lower than 3,000GHz. That implies that the rule applies to all mobile phone equipment as well as handsets and terminals plus Wifi equipment and laptops.

The trade association says that its members have a number of key issues with the UK’s interpretation of the directive.
• Some inconsistencies between wording in the UK regulations and the text of the directive.
• A slight differing on the obligations for importers in relation to retain documents, meaning the UK obligations go further than what the directive states.
• A major underestimation of the costs faced by manufacturers.

The “directive is a sensible law which techUK supports”, said Hide, though he criticised its implementation.

“Making manufacturers follow laws when the required standards are not ready is not something we can support, and we’re particularly disappointed that the [European] Commission didn’t do anything despite all the warnings given,” he said. “Hopefully the lessons have been learned and we would encourage the UK government to do more to avoid this.”

Even though the UK voted by a narrow majority to leave the EU in a referendum in 2016, the directive will still apply – though it will be replaced by UK law if the UK does leave.

The government said: “Until the exit negotiations are concluded the UK remains a full member of the European Union and all the rights and obligations of EU membership remain in force. During this period the government will continue to negotiate, implement and apply EU legislation. The outcome of these negotiations will determine what arrangements apply in relation to EU legislation in future once the UK has left the EU.”