CE product marking
Meaning and recognition of the CE mark – an article by Michael Holeczek (Dipl. Ing.), Director, Research & Development, WTW GmbH
Meaning and use of the CE mark
For Europeans, it has been a given for a long time and for consumers in other economic regions, it is usually respected as a seal of quality - the CE mark. Even if this introductory statement should reflect the general impression quite well, this does not change the fact that this impression may be distorted and part of it may be plain wrong. In order to correctly interpret this product marking, we will simply take a look at the legal aspects.
With the EU harmonization concept, the European lawmakers created a legal frame for product safety by means of EU directives as well as for the respective so-called harmonized standards. This legislative framework applies to products sold within the European Union and defines the minimum requirements for product safety. The goal is for the prodcuts not to be hazardous to the user or the environment. Every manufacturer must ensure that his product meets these product safety requirements. First, he must check which EU directives are applicable for his product. Once he has identified one or more directives, he will apply the requirements defined there to his product. Then he must prove that his product is actually compliant with these directives. As experience shows, this is when the above mentioned harmonized standards come into play. If it is possible to prove the conformity with the applicable harmonized standards, this will create the often cited so-called conformity assumption with the respective directive.
Here is a clarifying example: A WTW portable meter falls under the EMC directive 2014/30/EU. In the EU register of the harmonized standards, you wil find a product standard in EN 61326-1, which is applicable to the portable meter. Now, if you prove by means of an appropriate test that the portable meter meets the requirements of this standard, this positive test result will lead to the conformity assumption of the EMC directives, which means that the proof of conformity has been provided.
If this is how the conformity proofs for all applicable EU directives, the manufacturer must take the next step, CE marking. For this, he will apply the well-known CE logo to his product and issue a CE declaration of conformity. At this point, we would like to refer to the terminology of this section; even though the term "CE mark" is widely known in everyday language, the EU legislative framework does not include this term.
With the knowledge of these legal basics, the reader can now assess the meaning and expressive power of the CE mark: The quality of the CE marking depends on the care during the tests for the proof of conformity. Unfortunately, in real life, the bandwidth is very large. For many EU directives, the lawmakers do not necessarily require certification, i.e. the testing by a "notified body" - a monitored and authorized test facility. Here, the manufacturer can perform his own evaulations and tests and issue the conformity assumption on their basis.
With the CE mark, the manufacturer signals the conformity of his product with the European product safety law, however, the expressive power of the CE logo on a product is limited and depends on the degree of care that the manufacturer took while issuing the proof of conformity.
WTW certifies its products with accredited test facilities and therefore ensures that the conformity assumption is confirmed by independent third parties.