What is it, why is it displayed on products
and what is its future after Brexit?

ce_markings_1Have you ever seen those letters on pretty much everything you buy that has been manufactured and wondered what it means? The letters signify that the product complies with the essential requirements of the relevant European health, safety and environmental protection legislation known as the so-called ‘Product Directives.  The letters themselves, “CE“, are the abbreviation of French phrase “Conformité Européene” which literally means “European Conformity”. The term initially used was “EC Mark” and it was officially replaced by “CE Marking” in the Directive 93/68/EEC in 1993.

So what relevance is this to the our industry in the manufacturing of kitchen and bathroom products?

In January this year the national press carried the story of a one-year-old who was being bathed by her mum when their glass shower screen exploded.  It showered the toddler with shards of glass inflicting multiple cuts to her head and body. “It was like someone had fired a gun at the side of us,” said her shocked mother. “There was glass everywhere. Our glass shower screen had spontaneously exploded.” It sounds like a freak accident, but injuries caused by defective bathroom products are all too common. A few years ago a man sustained serious cuts when the toilet he was on tipped over and smashed. That unfortunate incident took place at an international airport but it could just as easily happen in your home. The internet has opened up the market to products in sanitary ware which are not properly regulated and this is putting consumers at risk.

So what can you do to protect yourself and your family from potential danger in the bathroom?

Quite simply, look for the CE mark on the bathroom products you buy.  Not all types of products require a CE mark but bathroom accessories, including shower enclosures, shower trays, glass and plastic shower screens, baths and ceramic ware such as toilets, basins and bidets, fall under the category of Construction Materials and must comply. For consumers buying and installing bathroom products, CE certification ensures a consistent level of health and safety protection. Peter Adkins is Director of Regulatory Services at Emms Gilmore Liberson and regularly advises suppliers to the Plumbing Trade and works closely with CIPHE. He says “Consumers need to realise that saving a few pounds by buying non-conforming products can be very expensive in the long term. The CE marking of bathroom products is an important legal requirement and consumers buying non-CE marked equipment do so at considerable peril. If this type of product fails it can cause major damage to the owner’s property and quite possibly severe personal injury.”

He continues “It is highly unlikely that a manufacturer who supplies non-conforming product will be properly insured against any claims which would arise, and a householder’s own insurance may well refuse to meet a claim in these circumstances. If a visitor is injured an owner may well face criminal sanctions as well as personal claims. A few pounds more spent with a reputable supplier will avoid all of these risks.”

Weeding out the rogue traders

While the legal responsibility lies with the manufacturers and installers, as consumers we can help to create a safer marketplace by refusing to buy from non-compliant sources. Reserve your custom for trustworthy manufacturers and merchants and help to drive the dodgy dealers out.  And always use a reputable installer.

Damian Walters, of the British Institute of Installation for kitchen and bathroom products quotes “Unfortunately, the UK market is flooded with product that simply doesn’t meet the stringent safety & quality requirements of those with a CE mark. Whilst quality is important, safety is paramount when it comes to bathroom product, especially when you consider the potentially lethal mix of water and electricity.

With an ever price aware consumer prevalent, consumers are often attracted to installers who offer a ‘cheap’ service proposition – these tradesmen are often able to reduce costs by compromising on product – product that doesn’t meet the CE mark of assurance.

Our advice would always be to ensure a professional installer/installation service is adopted by the consumer to ensure peace of mind is achieved.”

What is the future of CE marking after Brexit?

The British Standards Institution (BSI) advises that “BSI maintains the UK membership of the three European standardization organizations: CEN, CENELEC and ETSI.  Our membership of these organizations continues as normal; it is ‘business as usual’ in all aspects of our standards making and publishing activity. CEN and CENELEC are private organizations outside the EU.  CEN and CENELEC coordinate the work of 34 countries in the making and the dissemination of European Standards (EN). Membership of CEN and CENELEC is linked to the adoption of European Standards and the withdrawal of conflicting national standards, facilitating market access across the member countries.

BSI have been working with UK government (e.g. the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Exiting the European Union and the Department for International Trade) and other parties as appropriate, in particular CEN, CENELEC and their members, regarding our role in the development of European standards. This work will continue during the negotiation period that now follows the triggering of Article 50.

It is BSI’s ambition, and also its confident expectation, on behalf of UK stakeholders, for the UK to continue to participate in the European standards system as a full member of CEN and CENELEC post-Brexit.  Given the private status of these bodies, and thus their independence from the political authorities, BSI’s ambition is not affected by the Prime Minister’s announcement on 17 January 2017 that the Brexit process will include the UK leaving the Single Market.

What we do at AKW

Along with other leading bathroom manufacturers, AKW are members of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA) for whom AKW’s Group CEO, Paul Massey is also currently the BMA’s President.

The BMA continually strive to raise standards in the industry as well as educate and communicate the importance of legislation and regulation in the industry. At AKW, before a new product reaches the marketplace, it is extensively put through its paces in our state of the art testing facility where mechanical and electrical tests are repeated carried out to ensure the highest of quality standards and reliability.

We display the CE mark on all the necessary products with pride, confident in the knowledge that our products not only comply with all minimum standards required by legislation but in fact exceed industry standards.

So… in short?

Look for the CE mark when buying your bathroom products and if there isn’t one clearly visible, ask why not. And if you can’t ask why not, don’t buy it.  If you buy a non-CE marked product and suffer as a result, you will have no comeback. The impact is not something you can just wash down the plughole.

To buy CE marked bathroom products with confidence, go to www.bathroom-association.org/members/bma-members/.


Source of data:

BMA press release on CE marking

BMA website

BSI website