And there’s finally a question about my job!
The CE mark is similar to the CSA, UL, or Entela marks you will see on equipment and devices (look on the back of your monitor.) They all indicate that the device is certified to comply to a manufacturing safety standard that has been written and authorized by a technical committee which is a volunteer panel of experts from the relevant industry. They aren’t QUALITY marks, per se; they’re safety marks. If your lamp breaks, don’t call us at CSA. If your lamp sets your house on fire or electrocutes your wife, then we’re interested. Any manufacturer can get a CE mark.
The first major difference between the CE mark and the CSA/UL/etc. marks is that the marks we have here in North America are mostly voluntary. Most products with CSA or UL marks do not actually have to have them, according to the law. A good example of this is hockey helmets, which we at CSA test. Most hockey helmet manufacturers have us test their helmets, but there’s no law saying you have to. You can still buy helmets that have never been certified to a standard. Wayne Gretzky wore a Jofa helmet that probably would have split apart like an egg if he’d ever been nailed in the head with a puck. (Some standards in specific fields ARE legally mandated, though; standards are often referenced in law.) Reputable companies get the marks because:
- It’s good marketing,
- It usually serves a quality control purpose; after all, these standards are written by the industry that applies them, and
- It’s legally useful to demonstrate due diligence if you get sued.
The CE mark, however, MUST be applied to given types of products sold in or imported into Europe. If you manufacture hair dryers, you could sell them in the US with no certification mark (but you’d be awfully vulnerable to lawsuits.) You could not sell them in Europe.
The second major difference is that while the CSA, Entela, and UL marks are registered trademarks of those organizations, the CE mark is a universal mark that any authorized European standards body can hand out.
The third major difference is that the CE mark isn’t quite as hard to get as the other marks I’ve mentioned. High-tech and high-profile products tend to be tested, but a lot of regular crap like toasters and hair dryers can get a CE mark merely by “self-declaring” - e.g. “We tested it ourselves, so give us a mark” - and you can keep the mark until someone gets set on fire and they come to investigate you. On the other hand, CSA, UL, Entela and the like are jealously protective of their marks, since they have a vested interest in maintaining a profile of integrity, so they require periodic inspections of anything that carries their marks, and are loathe to let anyone else apply their marks.
So in summary:
Those little circular marks that say “CE” and “CSA” and “UL” are marks that indicate the device meets a national or international safety standard.
The CSA and UL and some other marks belong to specific certification companies who test a sample of everything that bears their mark. They own the marks and protect them very carefully.
The CSA/UL/etc. marks are usually voluntarily applied, though in some cases they are legally recognized.
The CE mark is different in that it is mandated for anything to be sold in Europe; can be handed out by any one of dozens of companies; and in most cases are easier to get.