Who is responsible for CE marking?

The CE marking requirements covers different aspects of a product’s design, production and distribution. Typically, various companies are involved in the design, manufacturing, distribution and placing on the market of products. The contributions of each single of these links in the production chain and distribution chain may affect the CE compliance of a product. For example, a product may be designed in accordance with the requirements, but may in the end not comply because during the production stage there was a deviation from the design. Or an electronic component may have been tested and approved for the requirements for electromagnetic interference, but can start to emit illegitimate disturbance when installed incorrectly. This raises the question of who is responsible for the CE marking.

The European CE marking directives, intend to make one person the main responsible and accountable for CE compliance. The way to identify that responsible person is rather unique for these directives. One would expect that the directives state that the ’manufacturer’ is responsible for CE marking. But instead they define two moments in time when the responsibility for CE starts:

According to the text of the CE directives, a product must comply with the CE requirements and have a CE marking from the moment it is:

– placed on the Community market for the first time;

– put into service in the Community market for the first time.

Placing on the market is the initial action of making a product available for the first time, either for payment or free of charge. Putting into service takes place at the moment of first use within the EEA by the end user. 

You may ask why the European legislator chose this construction to establish responsibility. The answer is for reasons of clarity and flexibility to be able to deal with all different cases that one may find in practice. For example, if the directives would make the ‘manufacturer’ responsible, the question arises what to do if the manufacturer is located outside Europe and therefore is not subject to European legislation. And what to do with products that sold under the brand name of one company, but manufactured by another? And if the directive would make the ‘importer’ responsible, one could ask which importer: the importer in the United Kingdom, the importer in Germany, the importer in France etc.? In other words, although references like ‘manufacturer’ or ‘importer’ seem to be clear and feasible to be used to establish legal responsibility, in practice these terms turn out to be rather ambiguous.

With help from the definitions of ‘placing on the market’ and ‘putting into service’ in each practical case always one responsible person can be identified:

    * the manufacturer, when located in the in the EEA;

    * the company that manufactures equipment for its own use (‘putting into service’);

    * the importer of products from outside the EEA;

    * the importer of second hand equipment to be placed in the European market fro the first time;

    * a private labeler (who presents himself as being the ‘producer’);

    * the person that revises or modifies a product in such a way that it is considered to be a new product (and that product needs CE).

Therefore the conclusion is that there may be one ‘person’ bearing the final responsibility for the CE compliance. However, this person cannot ensure CE compliance without the help of all the parties involved in the design, production and distribution chain. And so we see in practice that CE marking requirements are increasingly becoming part of agreements and contracts between these parties.

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