The UKCA mark has something of a chequered history, with the previous guidance having been withdrawn and replaced by relative radio silence from Whitehall in terms of what January 2021 might bring. But as the end of the transition period rapidly approaches, the Government has now filled the void, confirming as it does so that we will indeed see a UKCA mark post-Brexit.
As an EU Member State, our businesses have long been accustomed to the rigours of the CE marking process; a scheme designed to ensure that certain products placed on the EU market demonstrably complied with specific laws relating to health, safety and the environment.
Following the UK’s departure from the EU, it is now confirmed that most CE marked products will require a UKCA mark if they are to be sold in England, Wales or Scotland. There will be separate rules relating to products to be sold in Northern Ireland.
Which products require a UKCA mark?
“Most” products which already require a CE mark will need a UKCA mark. The new rules also apply to aerosol products.
The UKCA mark should not be applied to any product in the absence of a legal requirement to do so.
What does the UKCA mark mean?
A product bearing the UKCA mark will have been subject to conformity assessment to confirm it complies with the relevant essential requirements. The Government guidance states that those technical requirements, as well as the routes to demonstrating conformity, will be “largely the same” as they are currently. That said, this is a change and so an additional administrative burden (at least initially) can be anticipated.
When will this change take place?
In most cases, the UKCA mark can be used from 1 January 2021. It must be used from 1 January 2022.
However, you must use the UKCA marking immediately from 1 January 2021 if your product:-
- is covered by laws requiring a UKCA mark; and
- it requires mandatory third party conformity assessment; and
- that conformity assessment has been carried out by a UK conformity assessment body and you have not yet transferred your assessment files to an EU recognised body before 1 January 2021.
The changes do not apply to existing stock. Any items that are completely manufactured by 31 December 2020 can continue to bear the CE mark.
Where should the UKCA mark appear?
You must check the specific regulations that apply to your particular product(s). Generally, the mark will be applied to the product itself or its packaging. Sometimes, it may be acceptable to place it on the accompanying manual or supporting literature.
When affixing the UKCA mark, you should be aware that:-
- in doing so, you take full responsibility for conformity of the product with the essential requirements;
- you are only demonstrating compliance with UK law; and
- you must not do anything that misconstrues or confuses the meaning or form of the UKCA marking or that impacts its visibility or legibility.
Can a product bear both marks?
Yes; indeed many businesses will need to affix both. The EU will not recognise the UKCA mark and so if you are selling on the continent, a CE mark will still be needed.
You can display both marks if:-
- your product is to be placed on the market in both the UK and the EU; and
- the product is compliant with both the CE and UKCA schemes.
Currently, the product requirements for each scheme are identical and it is widely reported that there are no plans for the UK to diverge from the EU on this point. However, history tells us we can never say never when it comes to Brexit and with that in mind, businesses ought to keep a watchful eye on their product specific requirements both domestically and on the continent to ensure ongoing compliance.
Looking ahead, businesses should bear in mind that UK bodies will only be able to carry out conformity assessments for CE marking purposes if the EU recognise their competence as part of any future trade agreement with the UK. As such, it may be necessary to make contingency plans now to deal with any future assessment requirements.
It is understood that the Government will implement a legal framework that will allow UK conformance assessment bodies to continue to operate for most products to be placed on the domestic market.
What should I do now?
Those involved in the supply chain should examine the guidance on a product by product basis so as to establish what the specific requirements will be at the conclusion of the transition period. Whilst it is anticipated that the majority of organisations can continue “as usual” until January 2022, the new requirements will increase the administrative burdens on businesses and so early preparation is advised.
Importantly, Authorised Representatives and Responsible Persons based in the EU will not be recognised at the end of the transition period. This applies immediately from 1 January 2021. If products are to be placed on the domestic market, they must be based in the UK.
You can find details of the new scheme here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/using-the-ukca-mark-from-1-january-2021. If you require any support in interpreting the new position as it applies to your business, please do not hesitate to get in touch.