What is CE marking?
The European single market (the 27 Member States of the EU and EFTA countries Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein) brings immense benefits to consumers. We have all grown accustomed to a wide variety of products. However, consumers naturally expect the products they buy to be safe.
In creating the European single market, the European Union (EU) has put in place specific safety legislation for certain categories of products sold on the market. This legislation goes beyond general safety requirements that all products must meet.
Under this legislation, manufacturers must make an explicit declaration that their products are safe. This declaration includes affixing the CE marking on the product. Importers have to verify that the manufacturer has undertaken the steps necessary to fulfil the declaration while distributors must act with due care and be able to identify and withdraw products that are unsafe
It is important to know that the CE marking does not indicate that products have been approved as safe by the European Union or by another authority. Nor, for example, does it indicate the origin of a product!
How does the system work?
As mentioned above manufacturers have to make sure that their products comply with the relevant safety requirements. They do this, for example, by evaluating the possible risks and by testing samples of the product. Once they have done this, they must affix the CE marking on the product.
For certain products that present inherently higher risks, such as gas boilers or chainsaws, safety cannot be checked by the manufacturer alone. In such cases, an independent organisation, appointed by national authorities, has to perform the safety check. Only once this is done can the manufacturer affix CE marking on the product.
While manufacturers are responsible for ensuring product compliance and affixing the CE marking, distributors (and importers) 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. Not only does this help to reinforce the EU’s health, safety and environmental protection requirements, it also supports fair competition with all players being held accountable to the same rules.
Distributors must act with due care to ensure that their handling of the product does not adversely affect its compliance. The distributor must also have a basic knowledge of the legal requirements – including which products must bear the CE marking and the accompanying documentation – and should be able to identify products that are clearly not in compliance.
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. Furthermore, a distributor must be able to assist national authorities in their efforts to receive the required documentation.
If distributors (or importers) market the products under their own names, they then take over the manufacturer’s responsibilities. In this case they must have sufficient information on the design and production of the product, as they will be assuming the legal responsibility when affixing the CE marking.
Not all products sold in the EU need to bear CE marking. CE marking applies to products, ranging from electrical equipment to toys and from civil explosives to medical devices. Such products fall under one or more Directives which determine the specific requirements that the product must meet in order to be CE marked. You can see the full list of these product categories here.