RoHS recast: falling under the CE umbrella

9 NOVEMBER 2011

CE marking, the easily-recognisable symbol of product conformity across the European Union, is adding another spoke to its ‘umbrella’ directive. As of January 2013, the CE mark will also demonstrate RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) compliance as full CE obligations are incorporated into the RoHS recast. Good news for consumers but what effects will this move have on OEMs trading in the EU?

by Tom Westcott, Legislation Project Manager Europe, Farnell

To answer this, we must first look at the reasons behind the inclusion of the CE mark under RoHS. In broad terms, the purpose was to expand the scope of products to which the CE obligations would apply. As of the 2nd January 2013, all equipment falling within scope of the recast of the RoHS directive (2011/65/EU) will carry CE marking obligations. CE marking has been implemented by the European Commission to allow products to be freely distributed across the common European market, without the need for separate conformity declarations in each member state. Affixing the CE mark is a declaration by the producer that the product has been designed, tested and manufactured to meet the essential requirements of all applicable new approach directives. Not only does it declare that a product is safe, but it is also suitable for use in the function for which it was designed and that it will not have adverse effects on its surroundings.
It is this comprehensive approach to proving compliance that is the reason for its inclusion in the RoHS recast.
At present, the RoHS directive restricts the use of six substances (lead, mercury, cadmium, hexavalent chromium, polybrominated biphenyls and polybrominated diphenyl ethers) present over maximum concentration values by weight in homogeneous materials, covering a scope of eight categories.
Following the recast, the scope of RoHS will increase to ten categories in 2014, with a final category 11 being added in 2019 (the ‘open scope’ category).
In order to prove compliance, producers are required to provide satisfactory evidence in the form of technical documentation or information, known as the Certificate of Compliance (CoC).
However, no specific guidance exists on what form this evidence should take resulting in a multitude of applications in differing formats with differing information. CE marking, on the other hand, removes this ambiguity with clearly defined methods of compliance.
CE obligations require a three step approach to proving conformity – a technical file, a Declaration of Compliance (DoC) and finally by affixing the CE mark itself. Proof of compliance must be provided in the technical file, along with the specifics given in Module A of Annex 2 – 768/2008/EC. Technical file evidence must contain information on the following: a general description of the product, conceptual design and manufacturing drawings (with necessary descriptions / explanations), a list of harmonised standards the product is complying with (if any have been applied), results of calculations, examinations etc and final test reports. Secondly, the DoC (explained in Annex VI of the CE Directive 2011/65/EU), must detail the name and address of the manufacturer; the manufacturer’s acceptance of responsibility; details of the object being declared; confirmation that the object meets RoHS requirements; details of other harmonised standards being declared against; any additional technical information; and finally the manufacturer’s signature. As mentioned earlier, CE obligations have much greater clarity in their requirements and this is demonstrated in the form of the DoC template provided within the directive itself.
This exists in direct contrast to the certificate of compliance, which, due to the vagueness of current RoHS legislation, can exist in multiple formats creating confusion for both producers and enforcement authorities. The CoC is likely to be replaced by the DoC on finished goods and equipment, but will still be required for components. Finally, once all measures are in place the manufacturer must affix the CE mark in accordance with the requirements of the directive.
So what affect will these additional CE marking RoHS obligations have on OEMs in Europe? Put simply, and unfortunately repeating previous concerns, it is the burden of additional data collection.
Compiling the amount of information required for the technical file will demand additional resource for manufacturers, although the CE committee responsible for writing the harmonised EU standard for RoHS compliance has suggested that the work required is essentially what manufacturers should already be carrying out. Compiling information for the DoC should be a straightforward task but, again, the size of the task could be huge as all DoCs will need to be amended for all EEE sold in the EU. Finally, affixing the CE mark should not be an issue as the majority of products are already marked to show compliance with one of the other directives already covered by the CE umbrella.
Indeed it is the nature of CE marking as an umbrella directive that means that products which may not fall into the scope of RoHS may still be subject to obligations from one or more of the additional directives under the CE mark directive. One such example is development kits.
Whilst most development kits will be excluded from the scope of RoHS (products used solely for research and development are excluded from 2/1/2013), they may well be in scope for one or more of the directives under CE such as EMC (electromagnetic compatibility). Cables are also a subject of much debate. If a cable is sold as part of a kit i.e. a laptop and power cable, it is within the scope of RoHS and therefore CE.
However, if a cable is sold separately then it is not within the scope of RoHS (does not use electricity unless attached to another product) but it could still fall under another CE directive such as low voltage as the scope definitions differ for each directive. The European Commission is still discussing the RoHS position on cable. What is key to understand is that RoHS obligations are just one aspect of CE compliance and we are likely to see more areas of debate arising as the entry into force date draws closer.
The issue for OEMs is not necessarily the complexity of proving compliance but the volume of products it will apply to. It is also important to note that the responsibility to prove conformity covers the full supply chain. Specific obligations for manufacturers, importers and distributors are listed in articles 7, 9, 10 and 11 of the RoHS, in accordance with the reference to the harmonised provisions given in Annex 1 Article R2, R4, R5 and R6 Annex 1 CE decision 768/2008/EC. When coupled with the requirements of other directives under CE marking and the huge data collection tasks associated with REACH regulations and the, long overdue but imminent China RoHS directive, it becomes clear that legislation compliance is not an added responsibility for employees, but instead requires its own dedicated resource.
The inclusion of CE mark obligations into the scope of RoHS has practical intentions. The CE mark will demonstrate compliance with hazardous substance restrictions in addition to the other directives under its umbrella. It will also clarify RoHS compliance processes through the provision of detailed product investigations. But the very fact that the requirements are so comprehensive, and will lead to an increase in an already-stretched data collection resource, is likely to prove a major problem for businesses. There will undoubtedly be significant repercussions on businesses across Europe but in particular those SMEs which are subject to the full CE requirements but do not have the resources to manage the process.
If businesses cannot afford the time and money to ensure compliance, the reality could be that the majority just avoid compliance altogether, turning the CE umbrella inside out.

For more information on the RoHS recast visit the element14 legislation portal, the industry-leading resource for electronics legislation information, where you can find step-by-step guides, collaborative discussion boards and a unique Ask the Expert feature to help guide you through the world of electronics legislation. Visit the element14 legislation portal today at

www.element14.com/community/community/legislation

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • We use your personal data ONLY to respond to your comments/requests.
  • To receive responses that are appropriate to your requests, we may transfer your email address and your name to the author of the article.
  • For more information on our Privacy Policy and Personal Data Processing, please visit the page: Privacy Policy (GDPR) & Cookies.
  • If you have any questions or concerns regarding the way we process your personal data, you can contact our Data Protection Officer at: gdpr@esp2000.ro
  • Subscribe to our magazine newsletter