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Widening of Existing EU Electrical Safety Directives Would Require CE Marking for All Low Voltage Equipment

Adapted from International Market Insight [IMI] Report –
ID# 120675 (9/23/03)

New York, Sep 23, 2003

Gwen B. Lyle, Standards Attache at the U.S. Mission to the European Union, issued today a report advising U.S. industry of an opportunity to voice their opinion on a pending European Union action which would widen the electrical safety directive scope to include previously excluded equipment with a power supply or output voltage under 50 volts AC and 75 volts DC. If this directive should go into effect, the impact to exporters would be a new requirement to CE mark such products.

According to Lyle, the European Commission's Directorate General (DG) Enterprise, which handles electrical safety, is currently reviewing its low voltage directive (73/23/EEC). Of possible concern to manufacturers is an apparent widening of the scope to cover "any electrical equipment designed for use with a supply or output voltage not exceeding 1000 Volt for alternating current and 1500 Volts for direct current and intended for the purposes of generation, conversion, transmission, distribution or utilization of electricity". This differs from the current directive, which expressly excludes equipment of under 50 volts AC and 75 volts DC.

If adopted, this would mean that manufacturers of small electronic equipment typically operated by batteries such as watches or electronic cards would have to CE mark their products. Commission sources confirm that any such CE marking procedure would be simple and allow self-certification, as they consider these low voltage products to be "benign" from an electrical safety point of view. The European authorities claim that change of scope is at the request of EU based industry, which feels they would benefit from the harmonization of requirements that would occur throughout the EU as a result of this directive.

”At this stage of review, there is still a chance for American industry to weigh-in,” explained Lyle. A new version of the working draft is expected at the end of September 2003. DG Enterprise hopes to launch a business impact assessment early next year, which should be concluded by summer 2004. Some time in early 2004, a workshop with the participation of local stakeholders is planned to take place in Brussels, Belgium. This forum would allow manufacturers to provide additional comments. A final draft proposal is scheduled to be available by the end of 2004.

In the pre-legislative stages it is crucial that industry provide input in order to influence the final directive. Because the scope of this directive is potentially very wide and it is difficult to identify which companies would be impacted, we encourage you to share this information as widely as possible.

A copy of the 4th working draft dated January 2003 can be found on DG Enterprise's website.

For further information you may contact Mr. Georg Hilpert at the office of the European Commission or go through our office at the U.S. Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Belgium by contacting Sylvia Mohr or Gwen Lyle.

If contact is made directly with the European Commission, Lyle requests that her office be copied on the correspondence so that the U.S. Mission remains aware of interest and comments raised. This will also help them track the issue with the Commission.


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