Many brands place a CE mark on their products, claiming that the products are safe for the end-customer, and sell them within the EU zone. But that's not always the case! Do you know that sometimes the CE mark you can see on a product can be fake? Probably, your answer is “NO”, and that’s absolutely normal. Because of that reason, I've created this post based on how to distinguish the real CE mark from the fake CE "Chinese export" mark.
There is an assumption that a product bearing the CE mark is safe because the CE marking demonstrates the product’s compliance with the relevant and strict EU directives and standards. The marking benefits everyone in the supply chain but most notably - the consumer.
There is no doubt that at least once you’ve seen a mark that looked exactly like one of the both pictured above. One of both symbols often appears alongside the familiar UL (Underwriters Laboratory), FCC (Federal Communications Commission), or CSA (Canadian Standards Association) marks. The latterly mentioned marks appear on many products in North America. Usually, you can see it if you have a look at the safety and specification notes on the product.
There is a vast difference in the meaning of these symbols, and people need to be able to tell them apart. Therefore, let’s specify what a CE and “Chinese export” marks are.
I. Official CE Marking
The CE mark is a symbol applied to products to indicate their conformity with the essential requirements of the relevant EU directives regarding health and safety or environmental protection. The letters "CE" are an abbreviation and come from the French phrase "Conformité Européene" which literal meaning is "European Conformity". The CE Mark is mandatory for specific products that are sold in the European Economic Area (EEA).
Sometimes, alongside the CE mark can be seen a code which represents the ID number of the respective Notified body needed for conducting the product’s certification.
II. CE "Chinese Export" Marking
The CE “Chinese export” mark can be seen on some, not all, products produced in and exported from China. The mark is with a similar design, and if you don’t know how to distinguish it from the real CE mark, it can look identical to you. As a result, you can think that your product is CE marked and safe to use. The “Chinese export” mark is not an official European mark and is considered as fake. Many factories in China apply that mark on their products and afterwards, put them on the market. Such products haven’t had any risk assessment, safety evaluation, or testing. They haven’t been certified against the relevant CE standards, and their placing on the EU market is seen as an illegal act. As overall, products bearing the CE “China Export” mark vary in quality from being acceptable to completely dangerous in their design. A good example of products on which you can very often see this mark is the power supplies.
III. Difference between both CE marks
To understand the difference between both marks better, see the side-by-side comparison presented in the picture below. As you can see, the difference is not only in the meaning, but even though that the “Chinese export” mark resembles the official European CE Mark, it doesn’t respect its dimensions or proportions. In this regard, the letters are formed identically, but the spacing between them is different. Thus, this is precisely what differentiates the two marks. A correct CE mark has the E started on the circular profile drawn out by the C character.
Products sold within the EU zone are heavily regulated and generally safe. However, there are cases of unethical companies that, after receiving the approval on the technical documentation, remove elements to save money, which on the other hand is at the expense of safety or longevity of the specific product.
The European Commission and the national authorities have the responsibility to ensure that all products sold within the EU zone bear the official CE mark. Various measures, procedures, and sanctions have been created to counterfeit it, and they all vary according to the respective national administrative and penal legislation. In some cases, the economic operators may be liable to a fine and, in others, imprisonment. In the end, the legal implications depend on the seriousness of the crime. It is also possible that the manufacturer may have the opportunity to verify the product's compliance with the applicable legislation before being forced to take it off the EU market.
Additionally, if any customers suspect that the CE mark of a particular product is fake or have concerns regarding the product’s safety, they are advised to contact the respective national market surveillance authorities immediately, so that appropriate actions be taken.
As overall, every legitimate CE-marked product is considered to be with better quality and proven safety than any other bearing a look-alike, not official, CE mark. Therefore, it’s essential to be able to spot the difference between both symbols and stay away from any suspicious products.