by Richard McPartland
The letters CE appear on many products traded in the European Economic Area (EEA).
The use of the mark is required for a range of products and is designed to show that the manufacturer has checked that these products meet the necessary EU safety, health or environmental requirements, and complies with EU legislation. Not all products need a CE marking - only product categories subject to specific directives that provide for CE marking, under the New Approach Directives, require one.
The mark means the product can be imported and sold within the EEA - which includes the EU member states and European Trade Association countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Why CE Mark?
CE stands for Communauté Européenne (European Community) though sometimes is taken to stand for Conformité Européenne (European Conformity).
When was the CE Mark introduced?
The Construction Products Directive (CPD) of 1988 saw the introduction of CE Marking of construction products. The directive was subsequently replaced by Regulation (EU) No 305.2011.
The Construction Products Regulations (CPR) made CE marking mandatory for certain products in 2011 and 2013. This mandate was extended to structural steelwork and aluminium in 2014.
What does a CE marking signify?
The CE marking indicates that a construction product is in conformity with its declared performance and that it has been assessed according to a harmonised European standard or a European Technical Assessment has been issued for it.
Essential requirements are set down by the Council of the European Union and vary according to the particular type of product in question. For example, electrical products would need to comply with:
- Electromagnetic Conformity Directive (EMC) 2014/30/EU - which ensures the product does not emit electromagnetic radiation that is likely to interfere with other equipment (in terms of both radiated and conductive interference) and is similarly unlikely to be susceptible to interference form other products;
- Low Voltage Directive for product safety 2014/35/EU - which ensures mains-powered products are safe (products under 50v AC or 70v DC are covered under the General Product Safety Directive);
- Restriction of Hazardous Substances (RoHS) 2011/65/EU - which maintains environmental impact within tolerance. (You should also note The Waste Electrical & Electronic Equipment (WEEE) directive also applies but is not included as part of the CE Mark directive) and
- General Product Safety Directive (GPSD) 2001/95/EC.
What is a declaration of conformity?
As a manufacturer it is your responsibility to ensure a product satisfies the legislative requirements to be sold within the EEA and to ensure it complies with all health and safety requirements. In practice this means a conformity assessment should be carried out, a technical file established, an EC Declaration of Conformity (DoC) issued and the CE marking device placed on a product.
What a CE Mark signifies should be spelt out in detail as part of a declaration of conformity. This document usually accompanies products on import and often features as part of the product documentation. The declaration will typically show which council directives apply and the standards to which conformity has been declared.
While the use of the mark is mandatory for products to be imported and sold within the EEA it is self-certifying and the manufacturer can decide on their own what constitutes conformity and proof.
As a manufacturer what do I need to test?
While the use of the mark is mandatory for products to be imported and sold within the EEA it is self-certifying and the manufacturer can decide on their own what constitutes conformity and proof. Independent testing, while it may be beneficial, is not a mandated requirement. That said, if a product fails a manufacturer can be asked for information on how they judged and tested for conformity.
What doesn't a CE marking signify?
The mark does not signify approval - that the product has been tested and proved to meet certain quality standards or been otherwise endorsed. It is also important to note that the presence of a CE marking does not mean the product was made within the EEA as they could have been made elsewhere.
The CE mark should also not be confused with the British Standards Institute Kitemark™. This certifies that a product has been tested by the BSI and complies with the relevant British Standard. The kitemark device is then licenced for use by the product manufacturer.
What rules govern the use of the CE Mark?
There are rules that dictate how the CE Mark should look and be presented on product labels and across documentation.
It is important to note that the use of a similar-looking device using the letters C and E is relatively common. Here the spacing between the letters C and E is contracted. It is erroneously thought that this mark is a China Export mark. In fact it has no official standing but may cause some people to think that a product has met the requirements for CE marking as highlighted in this question to the European Parliament back in 2008.
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