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enforcement of CE regulations is causing problems for boardgames in EU

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This topic contains 24 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  blinky465 1 month ago.

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  • #1379293

    limburger
    Participant
    6620xp

    It appears that the requirement of imported goods to have a valid CE label (toy safety) is causing problems for boardgames delivered through Kickstarter. It definitely has caused problems for Victory 2nd edition by Columbia games (a delay of several weeks as customs delayed the import).

    Source :

    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/columbiagames/hammer-of-the-scots/posts/2470712

    Kickstarterverbot für EU-Bürger


    (German text)

    Legal : https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32009L0048

    https://publications.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/90058baa-00c8-4f33-973d-b4c48158be96

    (warning : lots of legalese that makes no sense to normal people like us)

    Wikipedia : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CE_marking

    Technically no real change in laws, but a distinct change in enforcement of existing regulations at the border (at least the ones in Germay).

    Because boardgames are technically classified as ‘toys’ this means that certification is essential for anything that isn’t made in the EU.
    I must admit that I do understand why they’re doing it (toy safety is important), but given that boardgames aren’t always targetted at children it is weird to have them classified as ‘toys’. Who knew that a couple of wooden blocks could cause so much trouble in a flocking wargame ?

    #1379294

    flatbattery
    Participant
    1619xp

    So, the EU continues in its quest to suppress all the fun? Wonderful! 

    #1379295

    blinky465
    Participant
    5058xp

    This isn’t so much about a clampdown on toys and games as it is about the UK’s threat to become a tax-haven on the shores of the EU; I work for a company that builds and exports electrical equipment around the world. CE marking isn’t just a toy safety certificate!

    This week was the first time we’ve had our exports queried about CE marking (we export to EU and non-EU countries) since we import some electrical components from China. In ten years, this is the first time. It’s perfectly allowable (legal?) to import non-CE marked goods for personal use; where the problem lies is when non-CE marked stuff is sold on (as a finished consumer item).

    Where I’ve been involved in producing consumer products, we’ve always self-certified and produced goods to the quality to bear the CE mark. But it looks very much like the EU is tightening up on anything coming into the country from outside the EU, not just to check that it is compliant with safety requirements but also that the correct VAT/duty is paid.

    It’s not the EU clamping down on tabletop wargaming. It’s not really so much about the safety – more that it’s the EU trying to clamp down on goods that haven’t had the correct duty applied.

    Also getting the actual CE mark on the packaging correct is important. There are plenty of shonky Chinese goods (on ebay and alibaba) that have what appears to be a CE mark, but on closer inspection the letters are squashed together; manufacturers have got away with claiming that it doesn’t mean “control europeanne” but “china export” (and resellers have long pleaded ignorance, pretending they thought it meant CE certified). Even if goods meet CE requirements, they can be held up if the CE mark is incorrectly applied on the packaging.

    #1379296

    blinky465
    Participant
    5058xp

    I also think the description on their website shows a basic mis-understanding of the CE marking process.

    ANY end product *for sale* in the EU requires the relevant CE marking, irrespective of where it is made – when we make equipment to send to the US and Africa, it’s not necessary to have our goods CE marked (we do anyway). But anything we sell to another EU country has to have the relevant CE markings – even though it is made in the UK (at time of writing, still hanging on in the EU).

    Free market rules mean it’s not *necessary* for our goods to be inspected, because we have agreed to manufacture them to the correct quality (not dangerous, no deadly live connections accessible to poky fingers etc) and they can be traded within the EU without duty being applied. But they still need to meet CE quality requirements and we still have to CE mark them.

    Simply saying “we’ll make our game in the EU so we don’t have to CE mark it” appears niaive at best!

    #1379297

    dogma2097
    Participant
    1309xp

    It’s basically the same (but more encompassing) as the US FCC mark – I think that they’re coming down on stuff without it more for the flood of cheap knock-off stuff from China that has hit various headlines lately – specifically fake usb plugs going on fire and things – but it’s a bit harsh on stuff that clearly states it’s for adults and not particularly dangerous. It wouldn’t surprised me if there’s a tragic tale linked to the rise in checks of this.

    Manufacturing is easier now than it’s ever been, but I’d wager the ease to get a project off the ground by inexperienced people can lead them to believe it’s Prototype>Manufacture>Ship with no due diligence in between stages. If it passes all the ISOs CPSIA ASTM etc standards for toys and recreational items that you need for the US, then you’re basically there.

    The world was created by lawyers for lawyers. The rest of us are just passengers.

    #1379400

    blinky465
    Participant
    5058xp

    @dogma2097 – nails it with “due diligence”. That’s what the CE mark is supposed to signify; that the manufacturer has taken necessary steps to ensure the product is safe – whether it’s an electrical item that won’t spontaneously combust or a cardboard playing token that isn’t coated in poisonous ink/lacquer.

    It’s this lack of CE mark that flags up to authorities that the product has come from outside the EU (and also brings into question the issue of correct duty being paid, which is what the EU is clamping down on, thanks to the threats of Brexit).

    The idea that this company thinks they can move production to an EU to “avoid” this necessary due diligence is quite scary!

    #1379699

    limburger
    Participant
    6620xp

    I must admit that I hadn’t thought about Brexit in relation to this, but it definitely makes sense.
    The fact that they’ve let it slide for decades is what really annoys IMHO

    It stinks of a purely political motivated act instead of something that is meant to be about actual ‘safety’.

    @blinky465 I think the EU considers such a thing a ‘positive’ effect of this.
    I did see that the CE mark is supposed to (almost) everything (not books?), but I must admit that as a consumer I never checked for the markings myself. With electrical equipment there (used to be?) a few other local indicators that were easier to recognise (like GS, FCC, TUV and KEMA). I kind of doubt those who haven’t had professional experience with this sort of thing even know what CE is supposed to be.

    Anyways … I did a quick check. Victory 2nd edition doesn’t have the CE logo,  but Zombicide (CMON) and Darksouls (Steamforged) do have it on their packaging.  Now that I know it exists I see it (almost) everywhere.

     

    #1379714

    danlee
    Participant
    5302xp

    The CE mark signifies all relevant EU standards have been met. They’re not always safety related (though in the case of toys I imagine all relevant standards are safety related).

     

    It doesn’t look like this particular crack down is Brexit related as the Kickstarter is referring to goods from outside the EU entering the EU at non-British ports.

     

    Any company manufacturing goods for sale in the EU (wherever they are based in the world) should be aware of CE rules and have been working with them for years now. Arguing that they have only just been caught due to stricter enforcement doesn’t cut it in my opinion.

    #1379778

    blinky465
    Participant
    5058xp

    There’s definitely some kind of crackdown happened in the last week or so. My company received correspondence about CE compliance, the company I provide consultancy to had correspondence from two different local authorities about CE compliance and two other people I know in the industry also received letters last week.

    @danlee – you’re quite right, this looks like a reactionary move by Columbia Games and instead of resolving the issue they’re looking to side-step it.

    #1379784

    danlee
    Participant
    5302xp

    @blinky465 – what Colombia Games are missing is that is the responsibility of manufacturers or importers to ensure everything they manufacture or import complies with EU regulations. Making the game in the EU doesn’t get around the rules. The games wont get caught in port but the factory could be inspected or the goods could be inspected at a distribution hub and still get caught.

     

    If they want to sell a product in the EU they need to buy copies of the relevant standards, read them and then apply them to their product. Then they can mark the box with the CE mark and import them without problems.

    #1379829

    limburger
    Participant
    6620xp

    From what I’ve read in that first link there appears to have been some sort of ‘escape’ that allowed companies to skip the CE requirement when customers ordered directly :

    “Das betrifft Bestellung von Waren und Gütern in Ländern außerhalb der EU, die durch Bürgerinnen und Bürger in der EU genötigt werden. Auch hierbei müssen künftig alle entsprechenden Produkte eine CE-Kennzeichnung aufweisen.”

    (rough translation : … any goods and services bought by consumers in the EU from countries outside of the EU need to have the CE certificate as well … )

    It is this ‘escape’ and the fact that not every import was checked that probably has allowed kickstarters (and companies like Columbia games) to skip this step. It was recently changed to become mandatory for everything (april 2019, starting summer 2019)

    Looking at what Columbia games writes on their most recent kickstarter update it reads like they’ve used this as an excuse not to pay for customs duties (“We have decided to give everyone in the EU 20 a game dollar credit to make up for the junk “handling fee” that EU backers face.”). This decidedly unprofessional attitude is not something that  is suited to a company. The only reason other companies/kickstarters rarely mention these types of fees is because they are probably absorbed into the shipping costs or part of product costs (neither of which matters as it still gets paid).

    This one is interesting :

    https://europa.eu/youreurope/business/product/ce-mark/index_en.htm

    “CE marking is valid only for products for which EU specifications have been introduced”

    So anything that doesn’t have EU specs can’t be imported in the near future …

    Then there is the fact that various CE requirements are ‘self certified’, which makes them open for abuse and kind of defeats the purpose of this sort of thing IMHO. Definitely not something that can be trusted as a certification of safety TBH.

    #1379833

    danlee
    Participant
    5302xp

     

    “From what I’ve read in that first link there appears to have been some sort of ‘escape’ that allowed companies to skip the CE requirement when customers ordered directly”

    I suspect it is just a matter of smaller parcels being less likely to be checked at customd than bulk shipments.

     

    “CE marking is valid only for products for which EU specifications have been introduced”

    This means that if there are no specifications a product does not need a ce mark. E.g. there are no specifications for books so books don’t need ce marks. It doesn’t mean the EU plans to halt imports of items without EU specifications.

    “Then there is the fact that various CE requirements are ‘self certified’, which makes them open for abuse and kind of defeats the purpose of this sort of thing IMHO. Definitely not something that can be trusted as a certification of safety TBH.”

    Self certification is not allowed for the most dangerous items (e.g. safety standards for preventing explosions) – you must use a certified third party to check you product. Even when you do self certify you should have records of your design process that prove your product meets the safety standards. If ever something went wrong you would need these documents to defend yourself.

     

    #1379835

    limburger
    Participant
    6620xp

    @danlee except to the consumer it is not obvious when ‘CE’ is self certified and when it isn’t. Never mind that these things aren’t immediately available to consumers. Add to this the ‘fake’ logos and you’ve got something that is only useful as a tool for customs checks instead of consumer safety.

    /off-topic

    #1379994

    danlee
    Participant
    5302xp

    @limburger – you are right a consumer has no way of knowing if a CE mark has been self certified or not. In an ideal world they shouldn’t need to though. They should be able to trust the CE mark and it is down to correct enforcement by importers and manufacturers (and the policing of them by their national government) to keep the system working.

     

    Fake logos do complicate matters. Ideally again importers should be checking their imports and only importing legitimate CE marked goods. Its in their interest as getting caught would lead to a fine or other punishment.

     

    It also doesn’t help that most people (at least people I know here in the UK) don’t really know what the CE mark means.  When I was learning about this for work I was told that some people think CE means “made in China” which is almost the opposite of the true meaning.

    #1379996

    limburger
    Participant
    6620xp

    @danlee : I’d blame the rather soft approach they’ve had (the rulings date back to the 90’s FFS … compliance should be a no brainer) and as such it is good to see them finally make an effort to enforce it.
    However certification isn’t a guarantee of (product) safety either.

    Given how many products are made in china these days it isn’t that weird to have people think it means something to that effect. You’d think that the EU would make this more widely known not that it is required for everything.

    btw : Puzzles with more than 500 pieces are not considered to be toys  … LOL

    (source : https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32009L0048 Annex 1 item 8 )

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