The European Commission has launched an information campaign and a new website that explain the role and meaning of the CE marking both to consumers and professionals. It also provides a comprehensive step-by-step guide for professionals to how this familiar marking works and is implemented.
Despite its presence on numerous goods, the CE marking - which simply indicates that the product bearing it is assessed before being placed on the market and conforms to all the relevant safety, health and other requirements outlined in harmonised EU legislation - still causes a certain amount of confusion. To help create better understanding of this familiar yet not-fully-understood marking, raise awareness of its importance and provide tailored information to different stakeholders, the European Commission has launched a CE marking website.
In addition to explaining the basics about the CE marking and a useful list of frequently asked questions, the website is divided into dedicated sub-sites for consumers and professionals. The consumer section explains what the CE marking is in straightforward and plain language and provides sources of further information. The homepage of the sub-site also contains an animated film in which different products line up outside an 'exclusive' club - which is the EU's single market - but only those wearing the CE badge are allowed into the party.
The professionals' sub-site is divided into sections for manufacturers, importers and distributors. If you are a manufacturer, the site takes you, in six steps, from the legal requirements for the products you make, all the way through to affixing the CE marking. After selecting the product group, for example toys, you can see the applicable legislation, verify requirements, confirm whether you need to involve an authorised body, check the conformity of your product, draft the technical documentation and, finally, find out how to affix the CE marking.
To help users find more country-specific information, the website provides a map of links to national websites in all the EU and EFTA Member States, which form the European Economic Area (EEA).
As part of its CE awareness-raising drive, the European Commission has launched an EU-wide communication campaign under the slogan 'CE marking makes Europe's market yours'. "We need to boost the visibility of and public trust in the CE marking. Our campaign aims to promote a better understanding of the meaning behind the marking and the purpose of its use," explained Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani who is also Industry and Entrepreneurship Commissioner.
The CE marking plays an important role for enterprises and national authorities. It provides EU enterprises with access to the entire single market without having to acquire 27 individual approvals from national authorities, thereby reducing the cost and burden of conformity while maintaining high standards. For national authorities, it facilitates controls to be handled by each agency at a time when the range of goods available on the EU market is growing exponentially, without compromising standards.
Among other things, 30 educational events and seminars for economic operators, professional associations, consumer associations and journalists will take place in the context of the campaign. For example, one such seminar was held in Sofia, Bulgaria on 19 October 2010.
The arch-shaped 'C' and 'E' label on numerous products sold in the EEA is a familiar sight to millions of Europeans. But, what does the CE marking actually mean?
The marking is there to indicate that the product in question conforms to all the relevant safety, health and other requirements outlined in the harmonised EU legislation that applies to it. Only those product categories subject to specific directives that provide for the CE marking are required to carry it. These include computers, phones, toys and electrical products. Certain product groups are not required to carry the CE marking, such as automobiles.
It should be emphasised that the CE marking is by no means an indication of origin and certainly does not mean that a product has been made in the EU.
There is a common misunderstanding that products with the CE marking have been inspected and approved by some kind of authority. In reality, many products can be assessed by the manufacturer itself. The ability to carry out this process is particularly useful for small and medium-sized enterprises that may not have the resources for checks by external bodies.
So, could this compromise public safety or health?
After being placed on the market, CE-marked products are subject to inspection by market surveillance authorities. Furthermore, national authorities ensure proper enforcement of CE marking provisions and pursue violations and abuse.
Moreover, European legislation provides for a complete framework for market surveillance and import controls. The New legislative Framework for the free circulation of goods in force since 1 January 2010 strengthens this framework and provides all necessary tools, until now missing, for policing the CE marking and sanctioning its abuse or misuse. Sanctions are laid down in the relevant national legislation of the Member States. The introduction of these measures serves to reinforce the role and credibility of CE marking.
In addition, for certain product groups presenting a higher potential impact on the public interest, such as dangerous machines or large pressure valves, EU Directives lay down if it is necessary to involve a 'conformity assessment body', which will check the product and decide whether it fulfils the legislative requirements that apply to it and whether an EC Declaration of Conformity can be issued.
While manufacturers are responsible for ensuring product compliance and affixing the CE marking, importers and distributors also play an important role in making sure that only products which comply with the legislation and bear the CE marking are placed on the market. The importer has to verify that the manufacturer outside the EU has taken the necessary steps and that the documentation is available upon request. Distributors must be able to demonstrate to national authorities that they have acted with due care and have affirmation from the manufacturer or the importer that the necessary measures have been taken.
'Regulatory approach for the free circulation of goods' unit,
Directorate-General for Enterprise and Industry