September 18, 2021 Tim Koenders

What is a CE mark? And what do you need to look out for?

You've probably seen a 'CE mark' on a product and wondered what it stands for. We will be happy to clarify this for you and tell you everything you need to know about the CE mark. What is a CE mark and is it mandatory in Europe? What is this mark for and how should I place it on my products? Also the consequences of placing the CE marking incorrectly are discussed. What can you do about the Chinese export logo? The logo that looks so much like the CE mark? We will show you how to tell the difference. There will also be a handy step-by-step plan so that you can easily see what you need to do to comply with European requirements. 

CE mark

CE mark

What is a CE mark?

The CE mark is a Europe-wide agreement on the safety of products in the European Union. There are many rules governing the CE mark. On some product groups within the European Economic Area (EEA) a CE mark is mandatory. The EEA consists of all countries within the European Union, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland. If your product falls within one of these product groups, you are obliged to place a CE mark. It is not intended to place a CE mark on a product that does not fall within one of the product groups, in fact it is prohibited to do so.

What does the abbreviation stand for?

CE stands for Conformité Européenne. Simply put, this means that a product complies with the European regulations. These regulations relate to different subjects. These include health requirements, safety requirements, performance requirements and environmental requirements. A product must comply with all these regulations before it is entitled to a CE mark. If a product does not comply with one of these regulations, the product must be modified, otherwise the consumer may not buy or use the product.

What is the purpose of a CE mark?

There are two reasons why the CE mark is used in Europe. Firstly, the free trade, because the mark allows products to be sold easily throughout Europe. Countries do not have to worry that a product does not meet certain requirements because it is approved according to European regulations. Products with the CE logo cannot be refused by any member state. A country within the EEA simply has to allow a product with a CE mark to be sold in its territory.

The second reason for using a CE mark is for consumer safety. When a consumer sees a CE mark on a product, he can assume that the product is good. It meets the health requirements, the safety requirements, the performance requirements and the environmental requirements. This offers protection to the consumer because he can assume that the product is good and works properly.

Who is responsible for the CE mark?

When a product is produced in one of the EEA countries, the producer himself is responsible for placing the CE mark. The producer is also responsible for checking whether his or her product meets all European requirements. A producer assesses his own product but must have a report of this. If a producer does not consider it suitable to inspect his or her own product or if strict safety requirements apply, there is also the option of outsourcing. An independent third party then checks whether the product complies with all regulations.

If production takes place outside one of the EEA countries, the importer of the product is responsible. Just like a manufacturer, the importer must check whether his or her product complies with European regulations. An importer can also choose to outsource the check. Ultimately, the importer is liable if something is wrong.

For which product groups is CE marking mandatory?

As we have seen, CE marking is not obligatory on every product. There are several product groups within the EEA on which CE marking is mandatory. These are the following groups:

Explosives for civilian use Electrical, electronic and energy-related products
Pyrotechnic articles Medical devices
Building products Measuring and weighing equipment
Toys Machines and related products
Personal protection equipment Transport equipment

When a product belongs to one of the above-mentioned product groups, it must have a CE mark. When a product does not fall within one of these product groups it does not need to have a CE marking. It is not the case that the product does not have to comply with any requirements. There are still rules and legislation in the field of safety that your product must comply with.

CE mark but not mandatory

You may think it is smart to just put a CE mark on a product to be on the safe side, but that is not the case. If a product does not fall within one of the product groups it simply may not have a CE marking. In Europe it is forbidden to place the CE mark on a product that does not fall within one of the product groups, even if it complies with the European regulations. It is therefore very important to know whether your product falls within one of the product groups.

Consequences for incorrect placement of CE mark

When a CE mark is placed on a product wrongly there are, of course, consequences. There are three possible consequences of the mark being wrongly placed on a product. The first option may be that the manufacturer has to modify the product. Of course, the intention is that the product is adapted in such a way that it complies with the regulations. Because the product does comply with the regulations after the modifications, it is then entitled to a CE marking.

The second option has greater consequences. It is also possible that the product will have to be taken off the market. The product may no longer be sold. There is also a third option for very serious cases. In these cases, the producer or importer is prosecuted.

Two different CE logos

In addition to the CE mark, there is also a logo that looks very similar. This logo comes from China and is almost identical to the European CE mark. In China, the letters CE stand for 'Chinese ExportThis is not an official European quality mark. It is purely intended to indicate that a product comes from China. Of course, in China they knew that the logo was very similar to the European CE mark. Some people call it clever on the part of the Chinese, as it inspires confidence, but of course it is extremely dangerous for the European consumer. When a consumer holds a product with the letters CE on it, he or she expects the product to comply with all regulations, while it may also be the case that the product does not meet these safety requirements. With increasing trade and imports from China, this is an increasing threat to you as a consumer.

How can you tell the difference between Chinese Export and Conformité Européenne?

It is very difficult to see the difference between a CE mark and Chinese Export. The only difference is that the letters in the Chinese Export logo are closer together. The C and the E are written directly next to each other. With the European mark, there is more space between the two letters. In the European mark, the C can be completed, as it were, as a circle. In the Chinese version, this is not possible, as the letters are too close to each other.

There is also a difference in the middle stripe of the letter E. In the European certification mark, the middle stripe is shorter than in the Chinese Export logo. There, the middle stripe comes as far as the upper and lower stripes. In short, pay attention when you see the letters CE on a product. If the letters are spaced apart, you can be sure that the product complies with all the rules. If the letters are close together, there is no guarantee that the product has been properly tested.

CE marking difference variant China

Roadmap

After you have read the above text carefully, you will know who is responsible for placing the Seal of Approval and when it must be placed. To make this step by step clearer, we have created a handy step-by-step plan. Here you can follow step by step what you need to do to make your product meet the requirements.

First step

First of all, you need to find out which product group your product belongs to. This is the first step in knowing whether your product needs to carry a CE mark. Each product group has different rules and requirements when it comes to the CE mark so it is important to know in which group your product falls.

Second step

When you know within which product group your product falls, it is important to know which requirements apply within that product group. As mentioned before, every product group has its own rules. You therefore need to know which rules apply.

Third step

Find out whether you can check your product yourself for compliance with the regulations or whether you need an independent party to do so. The producer or importer can check whether a product meets the requirements, but in some cases it is compulsory to have an independent third party look at it. This party is also called a notified body. This is especially the case for products with very strict safety requirements. If you have a product that has a low safety risk, you can assess it yourself.

Fourth step

The fourth step is to perform the verification. If the result of step three was that you can inspect your product yourself, you can do so in this step. If the verification is to be carried out by a notified body, this body will have to carry out the verification in step four.

Fifth step

The fifth step is to set up a technical documentation. This is a document that shows that your product indeed complies with the European regulations. This document is important because market supervisors can request it at any time for verification. The document includes drawings of the product, specifications, test certificates and instructions for use. This document must show that the product meets the requirements to be allowed to carry a CE logo. This document also contains a number of rules, such as what it should contain. It is also important that the document is written in the language of the EEA country where the product is sold or used.

Sixth and final step

When the previous five steps have been followed, it is time for the final step. This is the actual placing of the CE logo on the product. The CE mark must be clearly visible, legible and indelible on the product. If this is not possible, it may also be placed on a data plate. If this is also not possible, you are left with only one other option, namely to place it on the packaging or the instructions for use.

A distinction is made, however, between self-inspection and notified body inspection. If the product has been checked by a notified body, the product must bear the CE logo and the four-digit identification number of the notified body.

CE marking at TRALERT®

With LED lights from TRALERT® you don't have to worry whether the CE logo stands for Conformité Européenne or for Chinese Export. All LED vehicle lighting from our product range bears the official CE mark and not the variant from China. Our lighting is 100% tested and complies with all European directives. With our products you do not have to check how far apart the C and the E are or whether the middle dash of the E is long or short. The CE logo is not simply stuck on TRALERT® products. With our LED vehicle lighting the quality mark is neatly engraved on the product, as is expected from the European legislation.  The certification mark is highly visible, easily readable and indelible.

If you still have questions about our product range, for example, you can always contact us. We are also happy to help you with advice on laws and regulations.