The RoHS (Reduction of Hazardous Substances) directive, due to come into force on 1 July, could force the price of security hardware to rocket in the coming months.

One vendor, Watchguard, has confirmed that it is planning an across-the-board increase of around 10 percent on European shipments, triggered by the need to re-engineer its products to remove a range of toxic substances.

RoHS specifies very low limits for lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, PBBs (polybrominated biphenyls) and PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers) in all electronics products shipped across the EU after July.

Watchguard said it was the lead limits that had caused the most problems, requiring the use of alternative alloys that were expensive to procure.

The company stated that it had taken the opportunity of board-level redesigns to upgrade its products, so the higher prices also reflected improved performance. It had decided to make all products compliant, including those shipped to the US or Asia.

Meanwhile, other computing and security vendors appear to be ignoring or partially ignoring RoHS, claiming exemptions under a clause that allows products defined as server or network infrastructure to use higher levels of lead. This allows a company to phase in compliant products over a longer period, thereby spreading the cost.

It is not clear on what basis such exemptions will be assessed to be legitimate in the UK as the Department of Trade and Industry has not published a regulatory interpretation.

One source in the IT channel – the body of intermediary 'reseller' firms that retail technology products supplied by vendors – confirmed that a security company it dealt with would not have compliant products by the deadline. Many in the channel were concerned about being held accountable by the UK authorities in the event of a test case going against a non-compliant vendor.

The source criticised the level of confusion the directive had caused among computing vendors, most of whom operated outside its immediate jurisdiction while selling products in the EU. He agreed that compliance would inevitably add costs to hardware.

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