“Do European Consumers Know What They’re Not Getting?”

“Do European Consumers Know What They’re Not Getting?”

These days the European Commission is once again making a lot of noise about the supposed need for the U.S. to enshrine Supplier’s Declaration of Conformity (SDOC) for electrical equipment. For those of you out there who don’t live and breathe certification issues, this means that manufacturers need only declare (with the appropriate marking) that their products comply with standards – the products themselves don’t actually have to first pass any non-in-house testing. Instead, post-market-surveillance – checking of products already out in circulation – would be the norm.

Now the many years of trans-Atlantic insider scrums that have led to this assertion by the powerful, unelected mandarins of Brussels could be stuff of several no-doubt-intriguing doctoral theses, but if nothing else it all flies in the face of current  realities. Here in the U.S. amidst present-day concerns about toy, food and even airplane safety, the political mo is very much in the direction of enhancing testing requirements.

Besides, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. U.S. consumers, municipalities, etc. are accustomed to trusting certain marks as they consider electrical equipment purchases. Most people probably don’t take the time to think about these certifiers being private entities, but for those who do the fact that the U.S. Government accredits the certifiers – through the Occupational Health and Safety Administration’s Nationally-Recognized Testing Laboratory Program (OSHA/NRTL) – should provide solace. And with the safety threat posed by counterfeit electrical equipment a growing concern, U.S. purchasers understandably continue to think "no mark, no buy" when choosing.

Contrast this to Europe where – despite every “Europe controlled/ U.S. free-for-all” stereotype you’ve ever heard – product safety in practice is much more up for grabs. Yes, the “CE” mark is ubiquitous, but the public incorrectly assumes that it reflects actual certified testing when in fact it only shows companies self-declaring their compliance – ie, SDOC. Moreover, post-market surveillance in Europe is scattered and uneven at best, meaning the window is rather open for shoddy product to enter en masse. And tellingly, the April 18 Financial Times cites the Commission's own new report that “China (is) the main culprit as EU product recalls rise 53%”, with electrical appliances and lighting equipment among the main categories:


So if anything perhaps it’s the Commission which should be moving the other way in terms of reciprocity. There are European testing laboratories that have qualified for OSHA/NRTL status – showing that our accreditation process is not biased. How about letting U.S. labs – which are not currently allowed to — do direct European market testing?

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