CE certification refers to the requirements made by the European Union (EU) for the products they officially import into the EU nations. Literally it means "Conformité Européenne" or French for "European Conformity." The regulations are designed to protect members of the EU against products that might endanger their safety, pose a pollution hazard to public safety, interfere with electromagnetic devices or create other detrimental effects.
For suppliers and producers, the ability to place a CE mark on their product gives them several benefits. It allows them to move quickly through government regulation because many governments and European companies will permit CE-marked items to be sold much more easily than noncertified items. This also makes the items more attractive to potential markets. Products with the mark can also move between markets freely, which is especially useful when a product is being sold and distributed in more than one EU nation. With the CE certification, the product is automatically allowed in all the EU countries.
There are several general principles of CE certification that guide its use and applications. For instance, the certification can only be given by manufacturers of the product itself or by an authorized representative or third party, not someone farther up the distribution line. There is also a list of product types to which the CE certification applies, detailed in the Community Harmonization Legislation, and the CE marking has no meaning outside these particular types of products, such as particular electronics.
There are also guidelines that govern the authority of the mark itself. This is a CE-style badge created in the form of two tandem circles, black letters against a white background. No other mark can take the place of the CE logo. The guidelines also warn against using any other form of the CE logo in which the letters are moved or the background is changed to a different color, which voids the meaning of the certification. Compliance issues and penalties are left up to each nation individually to decide.
Pertinent to CE certification is the EU's understanding of minimal risk and greater risk. There are details in the legislation as to which products present a minimal risk and which have a greater risk, but essentially certain items are seen as holding more possible hazards for the public than others. If the item has minimal risk, then the company that produces it can usually brand it with the CE mark themselves. This involves creating a Declaration of Certification to detail the ways in which it meets the EU's requirements and how it poses no hazard to neither the consumer nor the environment.
For objects that are perceived as having greater risk, the EU requires that manufacturers have their certification be independently tested. To do this, the company must send its product to a notified body or a specific organization that has been nominated by a government of the EU and been notified by the EU of its requirements. There is a list of current notified bodies available in the Official Journal of the European Communities, but they are generally in charge of testing the product, surveying its quality and making sure it meets the set standards.