21 July 2024, 11:56
By Phil Reynolds Aug 25, 2023

The implications of the CE Mark U-turn

Despite long-mooted plans to the contrary, it has been confirmed that the UK will continue to recognise the European CE Mark on products. Furniture standards and regulations expert Phil Reynolds (pictured) looks at what this could mean for the industry …

When the UK left the European Union in 2020, much was made of the fact that we would be taking back control of our rules and regulations. For the majority of products, this meant replacing the EU’s CE mark – the mark indicating that a product complies with all relevant European safety regulations and standards and controlled by EU – with a UK equivalent. With this in mind, the UK Government introduced the UK Conformity Assured mark (UKCA). 

In terms of the furnishing industry, not many products are covered by the CE/UKCA regulations, those that are affected are predominately floorcoverings, motorised furniture and fire curtains. 

As products needed to be reassessed for the UKCA mark, it was never going to be an overnight exercise to switch to the new conformity marking, and so set a deadline of December 2024 for manufacturers and importers to have their products assessed and mark them with the UKCA mark, along with the CE mark. 

For products that need third-party assessment for proving compliance with both the CE and UKCA mark, this meant that products would need to be assessed in the EU for CE marking, and then the UK for the UKCA mark, as approval for CE marking is only issued to EU-based bodies and similarly in the UK only for the UKCA mark, even though the requirements, in terms of standards, were identical.

Then, in a surprise move on the 1st August, the UK Government announced that they would indefinitely recognise the CE mark alongside the UKCA mark, as an indicator that a product is safe for sale in the UK.

For manufacturers, importers and exporters this does make sense, and will help reduce costs. Products will only need to be assessed once and be able to sell across Europe without additional marking and bureaucracy, rather than effectively having to go through the same process twice, and additional red tape removed.

The questions for the UK, however, are:

How does this align with taking back control?

Whilst the UK is still heavily involved in writing European Standards, which form the basis of the CE marking criteria, the actual rules and requirements for CE marking will be regulated by the EU, and the UK will have no input into any changes that are introduced. In the short term this shouldn’t have an effect, as most current UK legislation is effectively a mirror of European legislation. Longer term, however, we can’t predict what will happen if new UK or EU legislation is introduced.  

How does this affect the UK’s testing and certification industry?

Where third-party approval is needed, a product would need to be assessed by a Notified Body. For CE marking, this would be a European testing/certification body. For UKCA marking, this would generally be a UK-based testing/certification (TIC) body. If you are a company producing products for global consumption, the obvious choice is to get a product assessed to, and marked with, the CE Mark, as you only need to have to invest in testing/certification once to cover mainland Europe and the UK.

Whilst the larger testing and certification bodies will have representation in both the UK and Europe, and so may be able to offer CE marking, not all can. The threat to the UK TIC industry is that there will be an exodus of work moving to Europe, which could jeopardise the ability of the sector to survive. For UK manufacturers and importers, it can also be a problem – most like to work with UK TIC companies, for both speed and communication issues.

Then there is the issue of product failures – if there are problems with a product, generally both manufacturers/importers and Trading Standards rely on TIC companies to support them. This could affect any legal action if the TIC company is not accredited to issue a CE Mark.

So, in general, it does seem like a good move for industry, removing cost and bureaucracy – but the real test will be how it works in practice.

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