Norms and Standards

Make it Fit: Norms and Standards

CE Marking

Most of the products sold in the Single European Market are required to carry a CE marking, regardless of whether they were imported to or produced in the EU. The CE marking is affixed to a product by either the manufacturer (if the product was made in the EU) or the importer (if it was produced elsewhere). CE means 'Communauté Européenne' (European Community) and indicates that the respective party has successfully assessed the goods for compliance with European safety standards. Issuing this self-declaration also makes the manufacturer or importer legally responsible for assuring the goods actually conform to the requirements for affixing the CE marking.

Products with CE marking are also to be accompanied by a signed Declaration of Conformity (DoC) stating that the goods comply with the applicable EU safety standards. The DoC provides information on:

  • the name and address of the manufacturer as well as of his representative in the EU, if the goods were produced outside the EU,
  • the product (brand name, serial number, etc.),
  • the signing company representative (name and position).

Each EU member state has appointed 'market surveillance' authorities to make sure the CE marking is used properly and that CE marked goods are indeed safe for consumers. If products anywhere in the EU are found to be dangerous for consumers, the finding is published on the EU's rapid alert system for dangerous consumer products (RAPEX) and/or on the European Market Surveillance System (ICSMS) and instantly made available to both the supervisory organizations for CE marking and to consumers worldwide. It is therefore in the company's best interest to both prevent safety issues from occurring and to quickly provide remedy (warning the public and authorities about and/or recalling the items) when they do happen.

Norms and Quality Standards

Industry norms developed by the DIN (Deutsches Institut für Normung e.V., German Institute of Standardization) are widely accepted in Germany, although they are not required by law. DIN coordinates its activities with and represents Germany in international bodies of standardization, i.e. CEN (European Committee for Standardization) and ISO (International Organization for Standardization).

DIN provides its own or German adaptations of international standards which business partners may chose to agree upon; some standards are even used as references in laws and regulations. Although DIN began its work with technical standards, it has expanded its focus to include more and more standards for services.

Here are a few types of norms you may encounter in Germany:

  • DIN: norms issued by the German DIN institute.
  • EN: norms and standards developed by the European Committee for Standardization.
  • ISO: norms and standards issued by the International Organization for Standardization.
  • DIN EN: European norms which have been adapted for Germany through the DIN institute.
  • DIN ISO: International norms which have been adapted for Germany through the DIN institute.

The German RAL e.V. (RAL Deutsches Institut für Gütesicherung und Kennzeichnung e.V.) works together with industry representatives to develop a wide range of quality standards for both products and services in Germany. The organization also independently assesses companies' goods and services and awards a seal of quality if the requirements are met. The seal of quality, like the DIN industry norms, provides a means of distinguishing companies from the competition and increasing their reputation with customers and, consequently, their chances for referral.

Safety Markings

Various general product safety markings have established a good reputation in the German and European markets. Though their use is voluntary, they provide a good source of information and orientation for consumers.

The GS product safety marking (geprüfte Sicherheit) used for a large number of goods has been available since 1977. It is available from a variety of independent testing and certification institutions for specific products and is reassessed (or expires) every 5 years.

Various types of VDE marking are used for a broad range of electrical products. They are awarded by the VDE Testing and Certification Institute, by order of Germany's Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies (VDE). The VDE also has a variety of partnership agreements with other certifying organizations abroad, i.e. in the USA, Canada, Russia and China. This means that VDE can assist with recognition of foreign electrical certifications in Germany and vice versa.

Also, the ENEC marking (European Norms Electrical Certification) used for a wide variety of electrical equipment is available in and valid throughout the European Union. Companies can apply for testing through an authorized independent body and can subsequently be awarded the ENEC marking for their products if they fulfill the criteria. Certification for ENEC marking is supervised by and available in Germany from both TÜV and VDE.

Since interference caused by electrical and electronic devises may interfere with the safe functioning of other such devices (as in airplanes and with medical equipment, for example), the European Union places specific requirements for electromagnetic conformity (EMC) on such items. Simply assembling CE-conform parts into a finished product does not necessarily mean, the product as a whole fulfills EMC requirements. Manufacturers of such goods, therefore, should make sure their products fulfill EMC ''harmonized standards.'' In order to certify their individual products as EM-conform, businesses can apply for a Mark of conformity to European Standards for EMC (EMC-Mark). The voluntary EMC Mark is awarded, upon successful completion of assessments by a variety of ''notified bodies,'' companies approved to certify products as EM-conform. Further information on individual EMC requirements, relevant EU regulations and notified bodies in your region is available from the EU Directorate General for Enterprise and Industry.

The most widely used and recognized certificate of quality for textiles in Germany and the EU is the Oeko-Tex Standard 100. This certificate provides a reliable, uniform standard for consumers who specifically aim to reduce their exposure to harmful substances in textiles. All raw materials, intermediate and end products at all stages of production are tested and certified for compliance with the standard. The certificate is valid for one year and the certified products are subject to periodic testing.

Additionally, the voluntary certification ''LGA-Schadstoffgeprüft'' issued by the German LGA (TUEV Rheinland LGA Beteiligungs GmbH) for a wide variety of indoor products, from desk chairs to children's mattresses and toner for printers. Manufacturers and products which carry this label have been successfully tested for especially low levels of emissions and harmful substances.

Environmental Labels: German 'Blauer Engel' and EU Ecolabel

Two major environmental labels exist in Germany - the ''Blauer Engel'' and the EU Ecolabel. Since 1978, businesses which produce particularly environmentally friendly products have been eligible for the German 'Blauer Engel.' In 1992, the EU Ecolabel was established in order to recognize such businesses' products on the European level.

The blue angel (''Blauer Engel'') signet is a simple, visible way to communicate a product's environmental quality to consumers. By using this environmental label on packaging, producers can increase the competitiveness of their products and services. Companies can receive one or more 'Blauer Engel' in four different categories of products protecting health, the climate, resources and water for a period of approximately four years. The 'Blauer Engel' works closely with the Global Ecolabelling Network as well as those responsible for the EU Ecolabel.

In Germany, both labels are awarded by the non-profit arm of the RAL (Deutsches Institut für Gütesicherung und Kennzeichnung e.V., German Institute for Quality Assurance and Certification). An independent jury from all corners of society is appointed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment to decide who receives the ''Blauer Engel.''

Companies selling a broad range of electrical goods to Europe must comply with the EU's WEEE standard. This standard indicates that electronic products and equipment fulfill the mandatory collection and disposal requirements stated in the WEEE Directive 2002/96/EC. The label must be placed on all products that have been introduced into the market after August 2005 and fall in one of 10 specified categories in the directive.

Labeling Organic Products

Since July 1, 2010, only food products that contain 95 percent of the ingredients from organic production can carry the EU 'organic' label. In Germany, the 'Bio-Siegel' is the official label for organic foods. Even though it is a voluntary label, there are more than 50,000 products bearing this seal, which is widely recognized and demanded by consumers. Producers may print the German 'Bio' seal or other private organic logos in combination with the new EU logo on their products. Please note that the EU organic logo is voluntary for products imported from third countries and mandatory for products originating within the EU.

In order to classify products as organic, the ingredients are subject to inspection by an EU-accredited inspection body. These authorities are responsible for the control and verification of the organic agricultural production and processing. They also supervise imports from non-EU countries and enforce the proper labeling of organic products. The inspection bodies additionally help foreign exporters and importers with the application procedures to obtain the import permit(s) required by the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE) for all organic agricultural products from outside the EU.

The two largest non-profit organizations for organic agriculture in Germany, Bioland and Naturland provide an additional organic label for their members. This label is voluntary and means that the applicable products have met or exceeded the EU's stipulations for organic agriculture as well as a series of additional requirements set by the organizations themselves.

Natural cosmetics can also be labeled with the BDIH Certified Natural Cosmetics seal (Bundesverband deutscher Industrie- und Handelsunternehmen e.V.). In order to earn this seal, products must, among other things, be made from natural, organic ingredients and not tested on animals. Further details on the exact requirements for BDIH-labeling are available online.

Labeling Fair Trade

Sustainability is of growing importance to consumers in Germany. As a result, the demand for clear labeling of and reliable standards for sustainable production has lead to the creation of the 'Fairtrade' label.

Sixteen different product groups can be assessed for compliance with standards established by the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International. Upon successful completion of the evaluation process, these items can then be awarded the right to display the 'fairtrade' label. The fair trade standards apply to different aspects of the production and trade processes like: fair pricing, humane and safe working conditions, sustainable investment practices and democratic organization and decision-making structures for cooperatives and employees.

The German organization TransFair e.V. oversees fair trade labeling and the promotion of fair trade products in Germany.

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