We often see the letters CE on products we purchase – from children’s toys to electronics, as well as windows and other construction products.
While CE marking might seem like a fairly simple concept, it’s actually very complicated, since it doesn’t apply to every product on the market, and different items will have to meet different requirements.
Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about CE marking to help you understand the European directive better, and what it means for you:
1. What is CE marking?
CE marking is a self-certification scheme to demonstrate that products comply with relevant European health, safety and environmental protection legislation. In most cases, this means the Product Directives.
Products that meet these requirements can be marked with a logo to show their compliance, and enjoy free movement across participating countries. The European Commission has referred to CE marking as a “European Passport” for products.
The letters are the abbreviation of Conformité Européene, which means “European Conformity”. Originally, the term used was actually “EC marking”, to match the French phrase, but “CE marking” is now used in all official documentation.
2. What are the Product Directives?
Directives are legal acts of the European Union. They require member states to achieve a specific result but do not state the means of achieving it.
Product Directives are the essential requirements, performance levels and standards to which products must conform.
For construction products the essential requirements, performance levels and testing requirements are set out in harmonised European Standards (hENs) and European Technical Assessments (ETAs) .
3. Which countries require CE marking?
The countries that require CE marking are the 31 countries in the European Economic Area. This includes:
- All of the 28 EU member states: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.
- Three members of the European Free Trade Association: Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
In addition, Turkey has fully implemented many of the CE marking directives, even though it’s not a member of the EU or the EEA.
Switzerland is also not an EU or EEA member. However, it is part of the European Free Trade Association, so accepts CE marking as a presumption of conformity with its own national technical regulations for some products.
4. What products are covered by the CE marking requirement?
CE marking is not required for all products. However it does apply to a large number of goods, such as electronics, toys, machinery, medical devices and vehicles, as well as many construction products.
The Construction Products Regulation came into effect on 1 July 2013 and stated that manufacturers of construction products would need to apply CE marking to any of their goods that were covered by a hEN or ETA before being able to place them on the market. Just some of the items that need CE marking include:
- Thermal insulation
5. How do I check my product is CE marked?
The easiest way to check that a product has CE marking is to look for the symbol. It should be on the product itself, or on the packaging or information that came with it.
If you suspect that a manufacturer is misusing the CE mark, you can request a certificate of conformity and/or a declaration of performance. This should provide test results and other information about how the item meets the relevant requirements as well as stating which harmonised European Standard the product has been CE marked as conforming to.
6. What is the correct symbol to look for when checking CE marking?
The official CE mark comprises the letters C and E, with their shapes based on a series of circles. There should be a specific amount of space between the letters – if you imagine the inner curve of the C to be a complete circle, the outer curve of the E should align with that circle.
The CE mark should always be at least 5mm high and, unless there’s a reason the logo can’t be affixed to the product itself, it should be included on the packaging or accompanying documents.
It’s not uncommon to find products with what appears to be a CE mark, but with the wrong dimensions or proportions. Most often, the C and E will appear much closer together than they do on the official symbol.
This could mean one of two things:
- The product should carry the CE mark, but the manufacturer has used the wrong symbol.
- The product shouldn’t carry the CE mark (either because it’s not required, or the product doesn’t conform to the relevant standards), and an illegitimate (and incorrect) mark has been applied to the product.
7. What’s the China Export symbol?
Many people believe that there’s a China Export symbol. They say the logo (which looks almost identical to the CE marking but with slightly different dimensions) is meant to identify that a product was exported from China. It’s also commonly believed that this is done on purpose to trick European consumers into buying a product that doesn’t actually meet CE marking requirements.
Some versions of the myth go on to say that Chinese manufacturers put the fake version of the CE mark on a product. Then, if they get caught with a product that doesn’t meet EU requirements, they can say that the letters stand for China Export and any similarities between the symbol on their product and the CE mark is purely coincidental.
However, according to the European Commission, this is a misconception. In a statement, the Commission said it was not aware of the existence of a China Export mark. It acknowledged that there have been cases where the CE mark was misused, but there have also been instances where the product was in compliance with the applicable requirements, but the CE mark used did not match the official dimensions and proportions.
The European Commission is also working towards trademarking the CE mark. It is hoped this will help to prevent confusion and incorrect marking in the future.
8. What happens if a product fails to comply with CE marking requirements?
If a product that needs CE marking doesn’t meet the relevant requirements, it cannot be sold legally in the participating countries.
If a manufacturer falsely CE marks a product or fails to CE mark a product for which it is required, the maximum penalty is three months in jail and a £5,000 fine for the director of the offending company.
9. Are CE mark testing standards compulsory?
If a product falls under at least one of the relevant directives and there is a relevant harmonised standard, then yes, the testing standards are mandatory, and products must conform to those requirements.
10. What are a manufacturer’s responsibilities with regard to CE marking?
A manufacturer is defined as the person who is responsible for designing and manufacturing a product with an objective of placing it in on the market under their own name or brand.
Whether a person actually designs, manufactures, assembles, packs, processes or labels a product themselves, or they subcontract out some or all of these responsibilities, does not matter in regards to CE marking.
It is the manufacturer’s responsibility to ensure that products are designed and made in accordance with relevant legislation. They must also draw up the required technical documentation and ensure that appropriate assessment procedures are carried out.
Once compliance has been demonstrated, a manufacturer should then write up a declaration of performance and/or certificate of conformity and affix the CE mark to the product.
Other responsibilities include:
- Maintaining records such as technical documentation and declarations of performance.
- Ensuring that suitable procedures are in place, so series productions remain in conformity. FPC Factory Production Control
- Ensuring products bear a type, batch or serial number for identification purposes. This may also be included on the packaging or a document accompanying the product.
- Indicating name, registered trade name and an address at which they can be contacted. This should be on the product, the packaging or a document accompanying the product.
- Ensuring a product comes with instructions and safety information in a language that can be easily understood by end-users.
- Taking appropriate steps if a product is believed to not conform with the relevant legislation. This could mean correcting the problem, withdrawing the product or recalling it.
- Providing national authorities with information and documentation as necessary to demonstrate a product’s conformity.
11. What are an importer’s responsibilities regard to CE marking?
When products are manufactured overseas, importers are responsible for ensuring compliance with the applicable directives. In these situations, the importer is considered the manufacturer.
There have been cases when an importer has not been able to produce the requested documentation to prove CE marking compliance, and Customs authorities have refused entry for the shipment.
12. What are a seller’s responsibilities with regard to CE marking?
Sellers have a legal responsibility to ensure that all relevant goods they sell have appropriate CE marking. In the UK, the penalty for supplying non-compliant products is imprisonment or a fine.
Under these regulations, authorities can enter premises, test products and seize both documentation and goods. Authorities can also force manufacturers to recall or replace faulty items. In the UK the enforcement agency is Trading Standards.
13. What is the relation between CE marking and product liability?
According to the European Product Liability Directive, consumers do not have to prove that a product has caused damage. Since manufacturers are liable for the damage caused by a defect in a product, they must be the ones to prove that a product is not at fault.
Because CE marking usually includes minimum safety requirements, manufacturers can use certificates of conformity, relevant test results and other documentation related to CE marking to demonstrate compliance. However, CE marking does not indicate that a product has been approved as safe by the EU or any other authority.
14. Besides CE marking, what labelling should I look for?
The regulatory labelling on products varies widely, depending on what the item is and the legislation that applies, so it’s best to consult individual manufacturers and industry bodies to find out what is recommended.
Here are some other labels that should be considered for windows and rooflights:
- The BSI Kitemark – This voluntary quality mark confirms that a product has been thoroughly tested and checked to prove it meets recognised industry standards for safety, reliability and quality.
- WERs – The Window Energy Rating system is designed to help you understand how energy efficient a window is. It follows a similar rainbow label that consumers are familiar with on appliances and Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs).
- Safety glass: BS EN 12600:2002 requires that all safety glazing is permanently marked in a position that will be visible after installation. This should include the British standard number BS EN12600:2002; a code to identify the material; the glazing’s classification; and a name, trademark or identifiable mark of the manufacturer.
- BBA Certificate.
15. How is CE marking enforced?
Several bodies enforce CE marking, with an aim to prevent misuse of the mark and ensure that product safety is maintained.
Market Surveillance Authorities are nominated public authorities in each member state, and each state has its own way of enforcing the legislation once it has been implemented into national law. In the UK, these authorities include:
- Trading Standards Services
The penalties for not conforming to CE marking legislation can include fines and imprisonment.
To learn more about rooflights and roof windows – including CE marking requirements, request one of our RIBA-approved CPD CPD seminars.
- China Export: https://cemarking.net/chinese-export/
- China Export: http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getAllAnswers.do?reference=P-2007-5938&&language=FR&__hstc=212625355.3f2de36e08d100bf5a59961f719b42d4.1488204191460.1488204191460.1488210063303.2&__hssc=212625355.1.1488210063303&__hsfp=175116049
- General info: http://www.icomuk.co.uk/News_Article/3794/17103/
- General info: http://www.ce-marking.org/what-is-ce-marking.html
- General info: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ce-marking
- General info: http://www.conformance.co.uk/cemarking/basics.php#compulsory
- General info: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/single-market/ce-marking/
- Which products: http://www.constructionproducts.org.uk/our-priorities/ce-marking/
- Importing: http://www.chinaimportal.com/blog/ce-marking-importing-china-complete-guide/
- Kitemark: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1jhWRIJ-YN4s-HsyB8HDARtJXiEGESXMql6VeM3j5sCg/edit#
- WER: http://www.ggf.org.uk/windows-energy-ratings