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From tools and toys to medication and workwear, the CE symbol can be found on a wide range of products. But what is the meaning of a CE marking exactly? Many consumers might assume that the CE marking is a seal of quality, but in reality, it simply indicates that a product meets specific safety standards. Our guide explains why this distinction is crucial and which products are legally required to bear the CE marking.

What is the meaning of the CE symbol?

CE is interpreted as ‘Conformité Européenne’ (European conformity). The CE certification, commonly referred to as the CE mark, indicates that a product meets the safety regulations applicable in the EU for its respective product category. This involves meeting specific material, manufacturing and testing requirements as outlined in the industry-specific directives of the EU.

Both domestically produced goods and imported products must bear the CE certification in order to be sold within the EU economic area. The mark is affixed by the manufacturer, or an authorized representative based in the EU. External testing by an independent test centre is not typically required, except in a few exceptional cases where a state inspection body (referred to as a ‘Notified Body’) may need to be consulted.

The CE certification is not a guarantee of superior quality that sets CE products apart from comparable competing products. Rather, it indicates that the product meets the minimum safety standards required for the European market. The CE marking serves as confirmation from the manufacturer that their product has been tested and:

1. meets the requirements of the relevant EU directives.

2. has undergone a conformity assessment procedure in accordance with the regulations.

CE certification requirements: which products are impacted?

Not all products require a CE certification. Instead, this obligation primarily applies to those that pose a safety and/or health risk and must meet specific occupational safety requirements. Whether a product is subject to CE marking regulations is determined by the relevant EU regulations for the industry or product category. It is prohibited to add the CE marking on products without legal requirement. For instance, the following devices and products must bear the CE symbol:

  • technical devices, e.g., office lights
  • medical products
  • machines, e.g., pallet trucks
  • toys
  • electrically operated furnishings, e.g., adjustable office furniture

Verify and apply CE certification to applicable products

This is the process to follow if you intend to affix a CE certification to your devices or products.

  1. Determine relevant regulations and guidelines

    First, ascertain which EU directive or regulation mandates the requirement for CE certification and identify the conditions that the product must meet in order to affix the CE mark.

  2. Involvement of a notified body (if necessary)

    If the product is subject to high safety requirements, an independent body (such as an accredited laboratory, etc.) may need to conduct the testing, as specified in the relevant guidelines. Check if this applies to your product and contact the appropriate certification body if needed.

  3. Conduct product testing and conformity assessment procedures

    Verify if the product complies with all legal requirements of both European and UK laws. A comprehensive risk analysis, including risk assessment, is also a crucial aspect.

  4. Create technical documentation

    Document all stages of the product testing and generate the necessary documents and instructions for the product’s use (e.g., user manuals, operating or assembly instructions).

  5. Applying CE certification

    Add the CE mark to the product in a conspicuous location, with a minimum height of 5mm. It must be clearly readable and durable. It is recommended to use the template provided by the European Commission. If a notified body was involved, the identification number should be included. If it is not feasible to label the product directly, the mark may also be placed on the packaging or included in the accompanying documentation.

  6. Prepare an EU Declaration of Conformity

    Once the procedure is completed, you must create an EU Declaration of Conformity for your product. Sign and date the declaration to confirm that your product complies with the requirements of European legislation.

CE marking requirements: regulations and legislation

For each product, the regulations for CE certification is initially based on an EU regulation, which is then incorporated into UK law through specific legal texts. The table below provides an overview of the directives, ordinances, and laws that establish the obligation to obtain CE certification for various product groups.

CE certification obligation for
EU Directive/Regulation
UK Law
Active implantable medical devices90/385/EECMedicines and Medical Devices Act
Elevators2014/33/EU ENGeneral Product Safety Regulations
Building products305/2011Building Safety Act
Pressure devices2014/68/EUPressure Equipment (Safety) Regulations
Simple pressure vessels2014/29/EUSimple Pressure Vessels (Safety) Regulations
Electrical equipment for use within specific voltage limits2014/35/EUThe Electrical Equipment (Safety) Regulations
Electromagnetic compatibility2014/30/EUElectromagnetic Compatibility Regulations
Explosives for civil purposes2014/28/EUExplosives Act
Radio equipment2014/53/EUThe Radio Equipment Regulations
Gas appliances2009/142/EGGas Appliances Regulation
Equipment and protective systems in potentially explosive atmospheres2014/34/EUEquipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations
In-Vitro-Diagnostic98/79/EGIVD Regulation
Machinery2006/42/EGThe Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations
Medical devices93/42/EWGMedical Device Regulations
Measuring devices2014/32/EUThe Measuring Instruments Regulations
Non-automatic scales2014/31/EUThe Non-automatic Weighing Instruments Regulations
Personal protective equipment2016/425/EUPersonal Protective Equipment (Enforcement) Regulations
Pyrotechnic items2007/23/EGPyrotechnic Articles
Framework directive for environmentally friendly design of energy-using products (eco-design)2009/125/EGEcodesign for Energy-Related Products Regulations
Restriction on the Use of Certain Hazardous Substances in Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive2011/65/EUWaste Electrical and Electronic Equipment
Safety of toys2009/48/EGToys (Safety) Regulations
Pleasure boats2013/53/EURegulations for pleasure craft
Certified cable cars for transporting passengers2000/9/EGLaws of the states
Performance standards for newly installed hot water boilers fuelled by liquid or gaseous substances92/42/EWGWater Heaters Legislation

Regulations for UK

Since the UK left the EU, the CE certification is no longer valid in Great Britain. It was replaced by the UKCA certification (‘UK Conformity Assessed’) in a legislative change. However, the UKCA compliance criteria are currently broadly in line with EU regulations. Separate regulations apply to Northern Ireland, which are laid down in the so-called Northern Ireland Protocol.

FAQ on CE certification

What is the meaning of the CE certification?

The CE certification, often referred to colloquially as the CE mark, indicates that a product complies with the safety regulations applicable in the EU for the respective product group. This entails certain requirements for the material, manufacture and testing of products. The CE certification does not have the meaning of quality or seal of approval.

What is the meaning of the UKCA certification?

The UKCA certification replaced the CE marking for products in the markets of Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales – separate regulations apply to Northern Ireland). The UKCA mark applies to most products for which the CE marking could be used.

Which products require CE certification?

A CE certification obligation does not exist for all products, but primarily for those whose application or use entails a certain safety and/or health risk. These include, for example, technical devices, medical products and machines, but also toys. Whether the certification is necessary is based on EU regulations for the respective industry or product group.

Who is responsible for adding the CE mark to products? 

It is added by the manufacturer themselves or by an authorized representative based in the EU. External testing by an independent test centre is not typically required; only in a few exceptional cases does a state inspection body (commonly known as a “Notified Body”) need to be consulted. 

How does the certification of a product work?

1. Determine relevant regulations and guidelines
2. Involve a notified body (if necessary)
3. Carry out product testing and conformity assessment procedures
4. Create technical documentation
5. Attach the certification
6. Write an EU declaration of conformity

Does the CE certification have to be added to the product?

If it is not possible to directly label the product itself, it may also be put on the packaging or in the accompanying documents.

Image source: Jungheinrich AG