I recently attended an event on Brexit and the issue of CE marking was raised. This was an area that I had not seen in the press previously and was surprised by how serious this issue can be for certain UK businesses.
Many products require CE marking before they can be sold in the EEA (EU + Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway). CE marking proves that the product has been assessed and meets EU safety, health and environmental protection requirements. The CE mark is necessary for products manufactured both inside and outside of the EEA, that are then marketed inside the EEA.
CE Marked Products
Products which are required to be CE marked include, among others:
- Electrical and electronic equipment
- Batteries and waste batteries
- Appliances burning gaseous fuels
The full list can be found at https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ce-marking#products-that-need-ce-marking.
Currently a UK manufacturer (or importer of goods into the EEA) is required to ensure the relevant product complies with CE marking specifications.
It must undertake a process to prove and evidence conformity. This then allows the goods to be sold within the EEA with the UK manufacturer taking sole responsibility for compliance with CE marking. For the UK manufacturer to attach the CE marking to its product, it must put together a technical report proving that the product fulfils all of the EU-wide requirements. As the product’s manufacturer, the UK manufacturer bears sole responsibility for declaring conformity with all requirements. Once the product bears the CE marking, it might have to provide its distributors and/or importers with all of the supporting documentation concerning CE marking.
When the UK leaves the EU the distributors and/or importers may no longer be able to rely on the UK confirming conformity. Instead the burden of responsibility may be shifted onto the first business which brings the goods into the EEA. As you can imagine this shift in burden of responsibility is not necessarily something that will be welcomed by the EEA customer.
CE Marking Post-Brexit
I have heard of incidences where an EEA customer is turning away from using a UK supplier due to concerns around the process for CE marking post-brexit. They are not willing to accept the extra responsibility of having to certify the products they are importing from the UK.
If the laws around CE marking are violated penalties will be handed out dependent on jurisdiction. For example, in Germany penalties may be up to €100,000/per product in the case of intent and up to €50,000 in the case of negligence. So you can see why, when given a choice of buying goods from the UK or from another EEA supplier, the customer may prefer the EEA supplier – the threat of non-compliance is far lower.
UK manufacturers need to consider whether this poses a risk to their business and what steps can be taken to mitigate any risk. For example, an EU located subsidiary to act as a distributor to the EEA in order to retain the burden of the CE marking responsibility with the manufacturers group could be worthwhile.