Regulations, ordinances, laws – in times of GDPR, ePrivacy, etc., e-commerce is burdened with extensive guidelines. Among others, these include the German Packaging Act (VerpackG), which has been in force since the beginning of 2019. What this act brought upon e-commerce is a heap of meticulous regulations that need to be followed. If online entrepreneurs fail to comply with their “to-do’s” set forth in this act, they face serious sanctions, ranging from sales banes and warnings to fines up to 200,000 EUR.
In the following article we will show you how to keep track in the legal jungle of endless paragraphs and provisions, how to spot which aspects of the law are important for you and how you can efficiently tick off your requirements. We will also discuss the German packaging law requirements in the area of fulfillment, which are important for you as a retailer if you have outsourced the logistics to a service provider such as byrd. You can find more information on this topic under point 3.
Brief check-up: Who is basically affected by the packaging law?
The VerpackG basically targets all companies that bring product and/or shipping packaging (the law uses the term of “sales packaging”) into the market with their goods. The decisive factor is that this ultimately ends up as waste with the private end-consumer. The question of who actually fills the packaging in question, determines who is responsible for the said packaging. The question of who actually fills the packaging in question, determines who is responsible for the said packaging.
1. You run your own online shop and send the orders yourself
After the customer has placed an order, you go to your warehouse, pack the ordered goods together with the filling and padding materials into a shipping box or bag, seal the shipment, label it and send it on its way. Here the case is clear: Since you are the one who fills the shipping packaging, you are also responsible for the sales packaging and you have to participate or license it according to VerpackG (you can read below how to do this).
Important: all components of the shipping packaging are included in the obligation – in addition to the carton or bag itself, this includes all packaging aids, filling and padding materials.
Important: In case you also fill the product packaging with the ordered goods – e.g. because you are the manufacturer of the goods yourself or you fill commercial sales units from bulk containers – you are responsible for the release of the product packaging in addition to the shipping.
2. You use a Dropshipping provider
Your dropshipping partner is located in Germany: Instead of storing and packing the goods you ordered yourself, you leave this directly to the manufacturer or a wholesaler. It could not be easier for you – because you never have the goods or any kind of packaging in your hands, you are off the hook with regard to the German packaging law obligation.
Exception: Your company is the only recognisable one as the seller of the goods on the outside of the shipping packaging; in this special case you have the responsibility and obligations. In addition, if a) both you and your dropshipping partner are identifiable on the outside of the shipping packaging, or b) only your dropshipping partner is identifiable, or c) both parties are not identifiable, then you hold no liabilities for packaging under the German packaging law.
Your dropshipping partner is located outside of Germany: This case has not yet been evaluated by the Central Packaging Register Office – the authority that monitors compliance with the law. We therefore recommend close coordination with the service provider and the independent assumption of the obligations, should no verifiable agreement be reached.
3. You use a fulfilment service provider
Your fulfillment service provider is located in Germany: The storage, packing and shipping of your goods is outsourced to a fulfillment service provider. This makes the case clear with regard to shipping packaging: since you do not fill it yourself, you are not responsible for its removal, but the logistics service provider who dispatches the goods from the warehouse (e.g. via various carriers) is the responsible party.
Your fulfillment service provider is located outside Germany: As with dropshipping, there is currently no official interpretation of the Central Packaging Register. Therefore the following applies here again – coordinate closely with your service provider and take over the duties yourself in case of doubt, or if you cannot otherwise prove that you are not liable.
4. You import or export goods to Germany
Disclaimer: Since the area of application of the German packaging law is in Germany exclusively, the following is always about the configuration of the legal framework. If the goods plus the packaging arrive in Germany through import or export and you export from Germany to other countries, the German packaging law is not applicable. Note: Consider that in other countries of destination there might also be packaging laws in place.
The decisive factor for determining who is responsible for importing foreign goods into Germany is who is in charge of goods at the time when they cross the border. Normally, this is the importer who actively brings the products into Germany. We recommend to contractually define the responsibilities between trading partners. Important: In this case, the obligation to fulfill the dispensation responsibility includes all sales packaging that is imported – i.e. both product and shipping packaging including all components.
If, on the other hand, a foreign trader ships directly to German end-consumers, he is responsible for the dispensation of all packaging that is also imported.
Your obligations and liabilities under the new German packaging law might vary. This mainly depends on whether you use a 3PL fulfilment service, send parcels yourself, manufacture and fill the products yourself, or you merely act as a middleman.
Should you, as a customer of byrd, find out that you are affected by the VerpackG – because you fill product packages, for example – we have a solution for you. Check out our to-do list below and should you need further assistance, we can provide step-by-step instructions as well as a coupon code with which you can license your packages at a reduced price.
Your to-do list: 3 obligations, 2 contact points
If you have determined that you are affected by the VerpackG, you should immediately check off the following steps:
- Step: Registration at the Central Packaging Register Office via the LUCID registration register (Attention: as the register is public, competitors + end-consumers have an access and can issue warnings)
- Step: Licensing of your packaging quantities with a dual system (= system participation); also enter the registration number you received from the central office after step 1. Our recommended partner for this is the Interseroh Dual System with its online shop Lizenzero – more information about Lizenzero can be found in this article.
- Step: Store the name of your dual system and the quantities licensed there in LUCID.
Note: Since the information entered in LUCID and your dual system is compared, they should match at any time.