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CE Marking: What Does it Really Mean?


the CE mark



Q: What do you mean by CE marking?

A: You’ll see it on toys, electrical appliances, safety gear, medical equipment etc.


Q: Ah, yes, I know. But that just tells you the thing’s safe, doesn’t it?

A: Well, yes and no.


Q: That’s a politician’s answer. Which is it?

A: Most likely it’s about safety, but it could be health or environmental protection. And what does ‘safe’ mean anyway. Who decides?


Q: Presumably it’s written into some regulations which apply to the thing that’s marked?

A: OK, to be exact the CE marking indicates that the product may be legally sold in the European single market, because it complies with the various ‘Product Directives’ issued by Europe.


Q: Ah-ha! The famous single market we’ve been hearing about. But who puts the CE mark on the product? Who decides that it’s safe, sorry, that it complies? Presumably the governments of the various countries?

A: No, it’s the person who makes the product.


Q: Whoa! So I can just make a widget in my factory, put the CE marking on it, and sell it in France, or Germany or anywhere else in the EU? That doesn’t sound very safe!

A: Well, no. Doing it that way would certainly get you into a bit of trouble with the authorities. You’ve a few hoops to jump through before you can sell it in the single market. First there would have to be a Product Directive that applied to widgets. That Directive would tell you the ‘essential requirements’ for widgets, most likely coming from a Standard, like a British Standard, that Europe has all agreed about. So you’ve got to build the widget to that Standard.


Q: Then I can put the CE marking on it?

A: Nope, not yet. Then you’ve got to get someone to certify that it complies, that it meets the essential requirements.


Q: Joe down the road knows widgets. He could do it.

A: Now you’re just being silly. Joe would have to be someone recognised as having the expertise, who’s been through a few hoops himself to get certified, to become what they call a ‘Notified Body’.


Q: Many would say Joe should be certified and notified! But I think I get it. Basically an officially recognised expert needs to check my widgets? Does he check all of them as I make them?

A: No, just a sample. Then if you have a good system for making sure all your widgets are the same, I’ll let you put the CE marking on them.


Q: Phew! At last. But hang on. As the leading widget-maker in Britain, I’m a bit worried about cheap foreign imports.

A: OK, so that would be from outside the EU. Remember things from inside the EU will have been through the same process you have.

Q: OK, so from the Far East then. Who checks on them?

A: Well, widgets don’t just arrive in the country under their own steam. Someone has to import them. That person has to follow the rules just as you did, before they can apply the CE marking, and they have to be CE marked to be sold.


Q: OK, I’m definitely beginning to understand. One final question. What about Brexit?

A: I just knew you were going to ask that! If you want to sell widgets in Europe then whoever imports them into Europe from Britain will then be responsible for the CE marking.


Q: So that makes it easier for me then?

A: Er, no. I’m pretty sure that importer is going to make you do all the work of getting the appropriate certification etc. Otherwise he’ll just buy from the EU. Anyway, we don’t know for sure, that’s what all the negotiation is going to be about.


Q: And we won’t have any say in what goes into any new laws, or Product Directives?

A: Now you’re getting into dangerous waters. No comment on that. Anyway it’s your round, mine’s a pint.


Cliff Shining