Any party who fills the shipment packaging with goods and places it onto the German market for the first time bears producer responsibility for it. Because the shipment packaging facilitates the delivery of the goods to final consumers, and therefore typically accumulates as waste with final consumers, it is always considered to be retail packaging. If it typically accumulates with private final consumers, the mail order company is subject to system participation.
Commissioning fulfilment service providers
The amended version of the Verpackungsgesetz (Packaging Act – VerpackG), parts of which entered into force on 3 July 2021, contains specific provisions concerning the responsibility of distributors – including mail order companies and online retailers – regarding shipment packaging where fulfilment service providers are used. These provisions can be found in section 7 (7) and section 3 (14c) VerpackG:
In accordance with these provisions, fulfilment service providers who fill shipment packaging subject to system participation packaging with goods are not considered producers within the meaning of the Verpackungsgesetz. Instead, the producer of the shipment packaging is the distributor of the goods who has commissioned the fulfilment service provider. As such, it is the distributor who must register the shipment packaging and ensure its system participation.
The distributor under obligation pursuant to the Verpackungsgesetz will then have to request the information required for system participation – such as the shipment packaging volumes and material types – from their fulfilment service provider. Under section 3 (14c) VerpackG, a fulfilment service provider is anyone offering at least two of the following services for distributors in the course of their business activities: warehousing, packing, addressing and dispatching goods over which they have no ownership. Post, parcel delivery or other forwarding agents are not classified as fulfilment service providers.
Starting 1 July 2022, fulfilment service providers will only be able to provide their fulfilment services if the commissioning distributor has registered in the Packaging Register and the packaging (shipment and product packaging, as applicable) has participated with a system.
Where imports are concerned, special provisions may apply. Please see our subject-specific paper on imports for more information.
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