At the beginning of 1992 the European Single Market was created. The objective was to remove barriers to trade throughout the European Economic Area allowing companies free access to markets in all the different countries without having to meet particular local requirements such as safety testing regulations, customs tariffs or contract conditions. Prior to 1992, and subsequently, the European Parliment have issued directives (called New Approach Directives) intended to provide controls on product design, with the principal objective being to provide a high level of product safety requirements across the European Community.
The CE marking applies to products placed in the market or put into service in the European Economic Area, and only for certain product groups or product aspects. The manufacturer or their representative is required to issue a declaration of conformity which must be kept available to the enforcement authority for 10 years following the placing of the products in the markinget. The manufacturer is also required to affix the marking to the product, its packaging, instructions and guarantee certificate.
CE marking of a product is not an option; it is required by law if the product falls under one of the European Union New Approach Directives. See: Petts Consulting, CE Directives page for further information on the Directives.
The CE marking is not a quality assurance marking. It refers to the safety rather than to the quality of a product and is mandatory for the product it applies to, whereas most quality markings are voluntary. A product may not be affixed with the CE marking unless it is covered by one or more of the New Approach Directives, and the product complies with the requirements and conformity assessment procedures of the Directive(s). The CE marking of products which do not need CE marking is not allowed, and to mark such a product will lead to prosecution.
CE marking cannot be compared with certification markings of third party certification bodies (for example GS-marking). In the European markets these markings are voluntary but the CE marking is obligatory.
The CE marking is as shown above left and must be at least 5mm in height.
When a product has the CE marking is affixed, it means that the product conforms to strict EMC (ElectroMagnetic Compatibility) Directive and other relevant Directives for that product. For example; Many electrical appliances also have to conform to the Low Voltage Directive, Electronic toys will have to conform to Toy Safety Directive, etc.
The CE marking on a product that falls within the scope of the scheme means that it is allowed to be placed on the market in any of the EC countries with no further testing required, a very powerful symbol if you're a manufacturer or importer!
The EC declaration of conformity must include components like: Description of the product, a reference to the specifications under which conformity is declared, a signatory to bind the manufacturer or representative and, where necessary, reference to the EC type examination certificate for radio transmitters.
The reference to the specifications does not necessarily mean that the product has been tested to these specifications. Three scenarios are apparent:
There are 2 routes for manufacturer to comply to the CE marking Directive:
Most manufacturers will follow this route, which is self certification to harmonised standards. Harmonised standards are those CENELEC or ETSI standards which are announced in the Official Journal of the European Communities (OJEC).
The advantage of certifying against standards is that there is no mandatory requirement for testing by an independent test house. The only requirement is that the manufacturer makes a declaration of conformity as mentioned above which references the standards against which compliance is claimed. The manufacturer has to ensure that he tests the product to assure himself that it does meet the requirements of the standards and this can be done in-house. It is, obviously, cheaper to have its' own in-house equipment to test the product instead of sending it to an independent test house, which is costly. By having these facilities, it will enable the manufacturer to design in the product to conform to the standards as, in many cases, modifications to the
product will need to be done in order to conform to the standards.
Generate a Technical Construction File (TCF), which will be held by the relevant authorites as soon as the product is placed on the markinget and for 10 years after the last item has been supplied. A TCF should describe the apparatus, the procedures used to ensure conformity and a technical report from a competent body. It may or may not contain test data. The difference between this route and the first route is that the technical report or certificate is issued by a competent body.
This route is normally taken when existing standards cannot be applied or when testing is not practical because of the size of the product.
This route is also taken when manufacturer decides to apply the harmonised standards in part only, or when the product has been tested to standards that are believed to have met the essential requirements.
If a CE marked product is found to be non-compliant then the manufacturer (or, if the manufacturer is outside the EC, the importer) can be ordered to recall any affected product and rectify the problem or even recall, refund and remove from the market totally. Fines may also be imposed and the requirement to have future products tested through an independent test house for a period of time. NOTE: If the manufacturer is outside the EC then any charges bought will be against the importer, or the importers agents, within the EC. This could mean you if you personally import goods to "sell on".
As an example, the producer's total liability for damage resulting from a death or personal injury and caused by identical items with the same defect shall be limited to an amount which may not be less than €70 million (around £60 million (Nov 2008)).
Reports have been made of a "fake" CE marking. Some Chinese manufacturers are marking their products with a CE and claiming that it denotes "China Export".
The logo they are using is so similar to the European CE marking as to be mistaken by unsuspecting consumers and even professionals, at first glance! Items offered for sale on the internet (including hand held radios) may well carry this "China Export" marking, which could be visible in pictures of the item, leading the purchaser to believe that all is well. The only way to recognise the China Export marking is the fact that the two letters are closer together and not properly spaced as in the original marking. The China Export marking is shown above right.
Be warned that if you are importing goods from China to the EC for resale and a CE marking is required for the item(s) you are selling and they are supplied to you with the China Export marking, then you are required to either get the manufacturer to comply with the EC Directives, and therefore have the proper CE marking, or risk fines and, possibly imprisonment, for selling potentionally dangerous products!
For further information on fake CE marked equipment see:
Be Aware of the China Export mark, YouTube Video.
Fake Chinese chargers could kill, The Inquirer, 21 July 2008.
Counterfeiting Alert, Voltium, 25 Feb 2008 (really dangerous one!).
The perils of cheap AC Adapters, Mike's Electric Stuff.
Below are both markings, spot the difference? The European CE marking is on the left.