Bolls ApS


Is the CE mark on imported electrical products legal?

By Kim Boll Jensen, Bolls ApS

There is a very large flow of products produced and sold by Chinese companies, among others. One can often get a little startled by their ability to copy and mass produce products. Often the products appear to be similar to similar Western-produced products, but they are sold at significantly lower prices.

As an importer, it is seen first and foremost as an opportunity to sell products at an attractive price, but what about quality, and are the products actually legal?

When it comes to legality, it is very difficult as an importer to assess. We will have to rely on the CE mark that normally sits on the products or their packaging.

In Denmark, the Danish Safety Authority regularly checks products, partly by random checks and partly by notifications from consumers and competitors. In the other EU countries there are similar authorities. It varies greatly from country to country how many products are checked annually, but all countries report to a common database called RAPEX. Then a product is found illegally in one EU country, it can easily be detected in the other countries. The database is fully accessible to everyone.

In addition to checking products, some importers have their own control, either by means of their own inside information or by sending products to external experts. Among other things, Bolls is one of these external experts who can check most electrical products for compliance with EU requirements.

Over the past few years, we have examined over 40 different import products, and only about 10% of them were 100% in order. The typical serious errors that we find on electrical products are:

  • Lack of grounding
  • Lack of fuses
  • Too small creep and air distances
  • Product fails isolation test
  • Use of electrical components that are completely lacking in approval
  • Plastic materials that melt or deform during operation
  • Plastic materials that are flammable where fire-retarded plastics are to be used.
  • 230Vac wires not secured mechanically
  • Lack of isolation for affected parts
  • 230V plug marked with D, S, BS etc. but never approved

For example, other types of errors are:

  • Incorrect or non-labelling
  • Incomplete or completely missing manual
  • Does not comply with RoHS requirements for e.g. unleaded soldering
  • Bicycle lamps that do not meet the requirements
  • USB cables with such thin inner conductors that the voltage drop becomes too big

EU law places responsibility on those who first place the product on the EU market. In other words, if you import products, you have direct responsibility to consumers and authorities. Not only is it responsible for the legality of the product, but it must be possible to obtain a declaration of conformity, as well as reports and other technical documentation as proof of compliance.

If things are not in order, you may have to recall all the products sold and possibly pay a fine, as well as costs for the Safety Authority's costs for product testing/testing.

We have seen smaller industrial machines that were not CE-marked and did not comply with the Machinery Directive. If the Factory Inspectorate passes by, production will be stopped and the machine may need to be rebuilt, which can have high costs for a production company.

We recommend that before importing products, you require at least the following documentation;

  • CE declaration of conformity
  • Any certificates on completed tests according to relevant standards
  • Reports on completed tests

Once the documents have been received, it must be verified that all relevant CE marking standards and directives are covered. However, also verify that reports and certificates cover the current product and are up-to-date according to the latest releases of the standards. We see a number of reports that do not cover the current product but an earlier version, and this is rarely good enough.

After the products have been received, random checks should be carried out to ensure that a slightly cheaper version that is not legal is not cheated.

The conclusion is that you have to be thorough in selecting products designed and produced in China, among others. There are far too many manufacturers who either do not understand what the CE mark covers or do not want to spend time and money complying with the requirements. We can only strongly recommend an independent assessment of the products in Europe before buying an entire container home. Bolls Aps is a good possible Danish partner for this type of check.