The world is full of acronyms. They are everywhere. From the BBC to the CIA, and from the AA (via LCF) to the NHS.
But what is the “CE” acronym, that is often seen on the underside of the goods we buy?
This question is very timely, because we are now likely to also see “UKCA” and sometimes also “UKNI” markings on products we buy as well. But what do they mean?
The “CE” acronym stands for “Conformité Européene" (or "European Conformity" in English). Essentially the CE marking on a product:
- shows that the manufacturer has checked that the product meets relevant EU laws, and
- allows the free movement of the product within the European market.
The regime only applies to those products subject to specific EU directives requiring CE marking. It applies to products including:
- hot-water boilers
- measuring instruments
- pressure equipment, and
- toys (although sleep-deprived parents could be forgiven for not having noticed the small print!).
The exact process manufacturers need to follow depends on the directives that apply to their products, but generally a relevant manufacturer is obliged to:
- carry out a conformity assessment,
- issue the Declaration of Conformity (DoC), and
- place CE marking on the product.
Some EU directives require an authorised third party (a Notified Body) to be involved in the conformity assessment procedure for CE marking.
UKCA marking – for placing goods on the market in Great Britain
Now that the UK has left the EU, a new acronym has been introduced - the UKCA marking, which stands for “UK Conformity Assessed”. UKCA is the new product marking to be used for goods being placed on the market in Great Britain (that is England, Wales and Scotland).
The UKCA regime covers most goods which previously required the CE marking; however as before manufacturers/importers will need to check the specific legislation that applies to their goods.
To allow businesses time to adjust, CE marked goods can continue to be placed on the market in Great Britain until 1 January 2023, whilst EU and UK requirements remain the same (which is currently the case and there are no plans to diverge – although that may of course change).
From 1 January 2023, manufacturers/importers will need to use the UKCA marking rather than the CE marking when placing goods on the market in Great Britain (although UK government guidance is that this new marking should be implemented as soon as possible before this date in any event).
However, the flip side of the new post-Brexit British rules described above is that the UKCA marking will not be recognised in the EU or Northern Ireland markets. So products currently requiring a CE marking for sale in the EU will continue to need a CE mark.
Placing goods on the market in Northern Ireland
The position in Northern Ireland is different, because it is affected by the Northern Ireland Protocol. For as long as that protocol is in force, Northern Ireland will align with the EU rules in this regard. Therefore, the UKCA marking cannot be used for goods placed on the market in Northern Ireland.
The existing CE marking can continue to be applied to goods placed on the market in Northern Ireland in certain circumstances. However, if you are using a UK notified body to carry out mandatory conformity assessments, then you need to apply a UKNI marking to the product to supply it in Northern Ireland. But you cannot use the UKNI marking on its own - it must always be used in conjunction with an EU conformity marking, such as the CE mark.
As you can see, this is a complicated picture, with or without the acronyms.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.