back to article Exploding Power Bars: EE couldn't even get the CE safety mark right

EE failed to label its "Power Bar" phone charging devices with the correct marking to show that the product complied with European safety directives, The Register has learned. The embarrassing cockup comes after we revealed that EE management had been warned about safety risks with its Power Bar, ahead of its launch in April …

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    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      No testing required for the CE listing? I'm surprised. I've seen this on products here in the States along with CSA and UL which actually test samples of the listed product. The manufacturer pays CSA and UL to do the testing.

      If the product isn't being tested then it seems to me the listing requirement is pretty useless. Sort of like ISO compliant, I guess.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. SImon Hobson Silver badge
        FAIL

        > No testing required for the CE listing?

        Indeed, it can legitimately be done with zero testing ! There is the "technical file" route where the manufacturer (or importer) basically created a justification for why the design will meet the regulations - "our calculations show that ...".

        And as pointed out, even if the device is actually tested, it can be tested in such a manner as to ensure it passed (as in the case of the farcical PLT situation) of the first batch may be made to meet the standards but then components left out after that.

        And Drs. Security highlights the biggest problem, that of enforcement. In theory there are penalties for false declarations, but in reality it's down to an overstretched Trading Standards (in the UK) to find dodgy equipment and have it taken off the market. In practice, unless someone like Drs. Security who knows about the problems and has the means of doing some basic tests finds a problem, then it goes un-noticed. A few may get caught by OfCom's interference unit - but again they (from what I've read) largely rely on radio amateurs and the like to detect and do some basic identification work first.

        You average man on the street is highly unlikely to have a clue - and unless fairly lucky and/or clued up would not work out that a new gadget was the source of any interference.

        So chances of getting caught - quite low.

        Consequences if caught - also fairly low. In the first instance, little more than a stern "stop doing it" instruction.

        Add to that, instead of a relatively small number of importers and wholesalers, we now have every Tom, Richard, and Harry importing stuff direct from the far east - either buying wholesale and selling it on, or buying individual items for themselves from online sellers. Only Customs have any ability to intercept this trade - and they don't have the resources either for anything but large shipments and/or things they've been tipped off about.

        As for PLTs, well it's fairly clear that the authorities didn't want to upset BT who were one of the worst offenders for handing them out to their "Vision" TV customers.

        Absolutely clearly no way on earth they can possibly not cause interference by design - yet the authorities have put an extraordinary amount of effort into working out reasons for it to not be their problem !

        www.ban-plt.org.uk/

      3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        >No testing required for the CE listing?

        The manufacturer (strictly the importer) has to do testing, it can do this in house if it can show it has the proper skills and properly calibrated equipment or it can have it done by a test lab. It then has to prove to the regulators that it has done it.

        On the other hand CSA and UL are commercial operations, they are unlikely to fail a product from a major customer who will simply go to the other guy.

        1. no_RS

          UL and CSA are a pain in the ass, UL are worse though

          UL and CSA are a real PITA when it comes to certifying products, the idea that they head for the lowest common denominator is totally false as anyone who has had dealings with them will quite happily tell you . They are a PITA!!

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: UL and CSA are a pain in the ass, UL are worse though

            Based on recent experience, I agree. It seems to vary by UL location though. The guys in North Carolina seem more cooperative than those in New York. In future, I will do everything possible to avoid having to deal with them.

        2. vogon00

          Radiation / Noise

          Have you ever tried to get complex equipment, or even simple stuff, through UL, TUV or CSA certification? Not as easy as it sounds, I promise you!

          Having said that, the only way to prevent poor conducted or radiated EMC performance (meaning interference! ) is good product design that conforms to well established rules and best practice.

          Oh yeah - the powerline technology on sale now (and probably in the future) is an abomination that should be taken out and shot. It's truly awful shit that broadcasts electromagnetic effluent around the home and immediately surrounding area. FM/DAB radio not working properly? Radio-dependant remote controls playing up? If so, turn your bloody PLT gear off!

      4. John McCallum
        Unhappy

        ISO

        This depends on which ISO mark you refer to. ISO 9001 for instance is Planning and Production and a right pain in the rear also a paper based exercise. I had to cope with this POS for five years working for an insulation Co.

        1. Vic

          Re: ISO

          ISO 9001 for instance is Planning and Production and a right pain in the rear

          ISO 9K is one of the more bizarre "standards"; it implies repeatability, not quality.

          I once worked for a software house that gained it (BS5750 initally, but that mapped straight over). We had a development policy[1] that stated that the data structures we were using at every point in the code had to be defined before the design was started...

          Vic.

          [1] Yes I did fight against it. I failed to get it changed. And I failed to develop any software to that procedure - for reasons that I hope are obvious.

          1. CP/M-80
            Devil

            Re: ISO

            Using void* across the project would meet that criteria ;-)

      5. Eric Olson

        If I recall correctly, the UL marking is actually trademarked or protected, and you not only have to get permission to use it, but there might even by special hardware or software for the marking that ensures that only the appropriate number or model is marked (e.g. taking the UL certification and applying it to a related but uncertified product.).

        I could be wrong about the last part, but I seem to recall a time in my life where this was told to me when I worked in a factory. It also would speak to UL's warnings about counterfeited UL marking from China and other markets and the efforts they are taking to ensure that fraudulent markings are easily spotted.

    2. Drs. Security

      secondly, the CE mark is only awarded and tested at the start of a product marketing cycle.

      After that there is a chance that products get retested. But that's very rarely indeed.

      As a hamradio operator we see enough effects of this so-called conformity in light dimmers missing filtering capacitors (yes they were there when the product got so-call CE-certified) because a couple of components less makes manufacturing cheaper.

      I've even had a battery pack for my i-devices (IIRC it was the Gum Max 10,400 Mah one) that when charging blurred out so much radio frequency interference that practically all radio signals coming into my house were drowned out (FM broadcast as well as e.g. civil airband frequencies).

      And yes it was CE-marked and sold in Europe and I tested two versions of it before advising Apple to stop selling it and returning the 2nd one for a refund.

      Similar issues can be found with power line communication (PLC) adapters, plasma tvs etc.

      So maybe that powerbar was nicely CE certified and fully correct and afterwards some components were yanked to make them cheaper. ON more then a million units that's making a lot of difference in the costs.

      Although this time that trick failed (if true of course).

      1. OliverJ

        Conformity marking

        The CE label is a mere conformity marking. It is applied by the manufacturer in a self-certification process, indicating that the product complies to certain european standards, including product safety.

        If you want some kind of quasi-independent, external testing, look for the VDE markings, or the various TÜV organizations. The UL has a similar role in the US market I believe. Obviously, these are often falsified as well on "China Export" imports.

      2. Chris Fox

        CE marking is a broken idea

        “Similar issues can be found with power line communication (PLC) adapters, plasma tvs etc.”

        The example of CE-marked PLC illustrates how broken the whole self-certification system is in the EU. Many (all?) PLC devices break rules on radio interference when used on standard domestic wiring, but all is supposedly well as the devices carry CE markings. This is despite the reality that self-certification that justifies the CE marking involved testing samples using “standards” that were never approved (because they were too lax), or measurements in an environment that did not replicate domestic wiring, or using interference thresholds intended for industrial, non-domestic use. It then seems that manufacturers are effectively allowed to “grandfather” the supposed CE compliance.

        As I recall, a ruling in German appeared to suggest all was in order, so no other national authority is willing to do anything about these dodgy practices. In the UK, complaints about illegal PLC interference are dealt with using a crazy ad hoc procedure that involves the BBC (rather than relevant regulator, Ofcom), allowing Ofcom to report it has received no complaints, justifying its refusal to act. Even the IEEE is complicit in setting up standards for this crap without considering the wider issues.

        The issue of CE marking is one where there is a clear case for EU reform, but unfortunately its this kind of “trust the manufacturers” crap that is supported by those who claim to be concerned about the EU.

        1. ilmari

          Re: CE marking is a broken idea

          I've wondered in general how PLC performs and is affected by the rather esoteric ring systems used ro wire UK households, compared to star topology used in the rest of the world.

          Now PLC kit is even using the PE wire to transmit data, which is turning every chassis into a radiating antenna, I imagine.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So now we will get a load of posts claiming this to be the China Export mark which doesn't even exist.

      Come off it, everybody knows it stands for caveat emptor. I must say it's a slow news day if the Reg are having to blather on that the wrong font or spacing were used for the CE mark.

      I suppose in the parallel universe of Brussels it means something, but as far as I can see the "CE" mark is a pointless bit of bureaucracy with no value to consumers at all, and no relevance to whether a product is safe or effective, whether it appears or not.

      1. Drs. Security

        agreed, it may be tested once but what happens afterwards in the real production run is never tested nor verified to be similar as the test sample.

        In that respect it's as non-interesting as the fuel figures in car brochures on how much you can drive for on a single liter of petrol.

        Only difference is: most people know about the car fuel specs they are not true.

    4. Velv Silver badge
      Boffin

      "By placing the CE marking on a product a manufacturer is declaring, on his sole responsibility, conformity with all of the legal requirements to achieve CE marking."

      "If you are a manufacturer it is your responsibility to:

      o carry out the conformity assessment

      o set up the technical file

      o issue the EC Declaration of Conformity (DoC)

      o place CE marking on a product"

      In other words it is entirely up to the manufacturer to determine that they meet the requirements and can then declare so. And we've never seen anybody falsely declare anything now, have we,,,

      1. Roq D. Kasba

        In other words it is entirely up to the manufacturer to determine ....

        I think that obligation passes to the importer if physical manufacture is outside the EU.

        I saw some 3-way plugs in a pound shop the other day without CE mark from the importer, mentioned it to trading standards who visited,next day they were all removed from the shelves.

    5. Pookietoo

      Re: It's not an automatic sign that the device did not pass testing.

      But it does suggest that perhaps the manufacturer wasn't particularly careful about following the prescribed procedures.

  2. Martin Summers Silver badge

    It sounds like the documents seen were a risk assessment of the bars, which I presume anyone would have to complete. You have to put the worst case scenario in there but more importantly the mitigation for said scenario. If these are the risk assessment documents you've looked at then that's the bit I'd like to hear about. Exploding batteries with faulty cables has happened before with other companies. Not trying to defend EE but this whole thing is a bit 'sexed up'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      EE are taking some Reg heat off Apple for a change.

      CE means as much as an MOT in the UK, on the day of test it was fine, two hours later, maybe not so.

      all testing processes are a one time, and the fact "it could explode if used with a faulty lead" is true of any device, even jesus mobes.

      sensationalist click-bait aside, are we at the stage where EE can do no right trying to help people that hammer their mobe batteries, just as Apple and M$ can only do wrong?

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        CE is simpler than that

        It means that the person who signed the Declaration of Conformity was willing to sign that it meets the applicable EU Regulations.

        No more, no less.

        The entity that places it on the market in the EU is legally responsible for this being correct.

        UL is different, in that UL is a pure paper exercise with (almost) no testing at all, but does require that the papers are lodged with Underwriters Laboratories.

      2. DanDanDan

        > all testing processes are a one time, and the fact "it could explode if used with a faulty lead" is true of any device, even jesus mobes.

        Well I don't think that's quite factually accurate. I think the faulty lead could melt or set on fire. But just using a faulty cable should be protected against by the charging circuitry to prevent an explosion of the device.

  3. PNGuinn
    Mushroom

    Totally ....

    Eh?

    "the Power Bar could easily be overloaded and catch fire if used with a faulty cable"

    That sounds suspiciously like the "proper" cable is a long flimsy bit of high restance string which is an essential part of the charge limitation process, in which case the line should read "the Power Bar could easily be overloaded and catch fire if NOT used with the faulty cable supplied".

    Under any normal situation I''d say shirly not - but ...??

    Have el reg any info on exactly what "a faulty cable" entails in this instance?

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Totally ....

      Faulty cable in this instance would mean dead short.

      First rule of writing this kind of bumf... don't be too specific.

      1. Drs. Security

        Re: Totally ....

        no, if there's a short in the cable the power will flow back and not (mostly) pass through the battery system at all.

        e.g. it will not charge.

        One way there could be issues if somehow the negative (katode) and positive (anode) lines in the cable switch sides and you try to "charge" the power bar with the wrong terminals connected to the wrong wires.

        A short circuit can also cause this but it is not an overcharging issue that will cause the spectacular failure here IMHO.

        1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

          Re: Totally ....

          Katode? Cathode!

          But if you short out a battery, any battery, the internal resistance of the battery will cause it to become a heater...

          And the greater the capacity of the battery, the greater the heat effect.

          Try this at home, but take suitable precautions.

          Get an alkaline AA battery, and put a wire connecting both ends. Leave it for 10 seconds, disconnect, and then see how hot the battery is. But be careful, it'll be hot!

          If these devices were made correctly, they should have some form of current limiter, which would prevent a short causing them to overheat (could be as simple as a fuse). But I guess at least the faulty ones don't, or it does not function correctly.

          1. Steve Evans

            Re: Totally ....

            May I just reinforce that Peter is suggesting an *Alkaline* AA batteries... Which have a greater internal resistance than rechargeables, so a lower current...

            Do *NOT* do this with rechargeables! They have a much lower internal resistance, the current that flows will be much higher, your bit of wire could easily become red hot, and the battery will at best be ruined, at worst could explode.

            1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

              Re: Totally .... @Steve

              I deliberately said alkaline for this reason, and also because potentially ruining a disposable battery is preferable to doing the same to a rechargeable.

              I should have said why, maybe. Thanks for providing the extra warning for other people.

              1. Steve Evans

                Re: Totally .... @Steve

                Not a problem Peter.... I try to never overestimate the ability of people on the intarwebz to blow themselves up!

        2. ilmari

          Re: Totally ....

          It was probably refering to a cable connected to the power supplying port on the powerbar. If that would be shorted, the dc-dc converter might be lefg running at its maximum capacity, heating up the battery it's sitting next to. If the converter lacks thermal cutoff, it will eventually enter runaway conditions, after which it's no longer converting, just passing through acting like a dead short itself. Temperature would increase to above the point where Li-Ion ignites..

          1. Laura Kerr

            Re: Totally ....

            Or don't do what I managed to do once - drop a spanner across the terminals of a fully-charged lead-acid battery.

            The battery casing warped and the spanner melted.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. Trygve

    Has anyone ever bought german-market electricals?

    They always seem to include a little piece of paper stating that the product meets/has passed all relevant regulatory requirements of <list of german regulatory agencies>, undersigned by a named member of the senior management team of whichever company has their name on the packaging.

    The idea presumably being that in circumstances such as these you could just phone up the relevant individual and ask them exactly what went on, and haul them into court if necessary.

    I've always thought it a neat idea since I first encountered it (on a cheap Lidl-branded power screwdriver), but in the Anglo-Saxon world taking responsibility for the quality of the products you sell is regarded as a quaint notion holding back dynamic and innovative business ideas.

    1. An ominous cow heard

      Re: Has anyone ever bought german-market electricals?

      "a little piece of paper stating that the product meets/has passed all relevant regulatory requirements of <list of german regulatory agencies>, undersigned by a named member of the senior management team of whichever company has their name on the packaging."

      Guess what, that's pretty much what a proper Declaration of Conformity has too, although the 'senior' bit may be replaced by 'authorised'. After all, Seniors often have far more important things to do than be held responsible for anything.

      The DoC is supposed to be available with the product, directly (e.g. in the destructions) or by contacting the product supplier (e.g. the authorised European representative, if the product is manufactured outside Europe).

      The idea that a supplier, when asked for a product's DoC, can legally just say "eff off" (or even just politely ignore the request) is laughable.

      " in circumstances such as these you could just phone up the relevant individual and ask them exactly what went on, and haul them into court if necessary.

      And that appears to be the *intention* behind the CE/DoC rules here too.

      Obviously that kind of thing (like suppliers following product liability legislation) is completely impermissible in the UK.

      Re: self certification

      There is clearly a problem with abuse of self certification. However, what's actually in the rules is stuff like:

      "'You must keep certain documentation once you have placed the CE marking onto your product. This information can be requested at any time by the Market Surveillance Authorities to check that a CE marking has been legitimately placed on a product."

      The idea presumably being that in circumstances such as these, anyone who has been fraudulently misrepresenting what went on can be held accountable for it. Not that it ever happens.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Has anyone ever bought german-market electricals?

      "in the Anglo-Saxon world taking responsibility for the quality of the products you sell is regarded as a quaint notion holding back dynamic and innovative business ideas."

      Maybe so, but the UK does actually have laws on product liability, El-Reg's favoured lawyers even have a quite readable article on the subject [1].

      Some manufacturers and suppliers take their "product liability" responsibilities seriously. Maybe not enough, obviously. Maybe more prosecutions and convictions and sentences would be helpful. Maybe some of the recent car hacking cases should end up in the courts (there have been JLR-related instances, iirc).

      Ever wondered why some perishable products now have "best before" and "use by" dates with ridiculous precision: Use by 23 Aug 2015 14:09 (or other seemingly meaningless dotmatrix printing on the container)?

      Often, it's there because it allows the manufacturer to track stuff back. From the extended best before date, if something does go wrong a suitably motivated manufacturer can work out what else might be affected, and (frequently) stuff like which machines in which factories made it and so on. And any incidents can thus be handled responsibly. Given suitable motivation.

      See anything like that in this EE case? Serial number, batch number, anything like that?

      Off with their heads. To motivate the others.

      [1] http://www.out-law.com/en/topics/commercial/supply-of-goods-and-services/product-liability-under-the-consumer-protection-act/

      Product liability under the Consumer Protection Act (last updated in August 2011)

      Product liability is the area of law in which manufacturers, distributors, suppliers and retailers are held responsible for any injuries products cause. Regardless of any contractual limitations of liability, if a product or any of its component parts are defective its manufacturer may be liable for damage under the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) or the common law of negligence.

      [snip]

      people who are injured by defective products can sue for compensation without having to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. It is merely necessary to prove that the product was defective, and that any injury or damage was most likely caused by the product.

      [snip]

      A product is defective for the purposes of the CPA if its safety, including not only the risk of personal injury but also the risk of damage to property, is "not such as persons generally are entitled to expect". [anon: well, these days many of us know exactly what to expect: Chinese tat]

      [continues]

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe they were just being honest?

    EE failed to label its "Power Bar" phone charging devices with the correct marking to show that the product complied with European safety directives

    Well, given the events it could be argued that they were just being honest. The problem with that is that they were then knowingly selling goods in non-compliance with the required standards for those goods.

    Whatever comes of this, the lesson is that is you have documents warning you of risks you better accompany them with acknowledgement and how you address that risk. At the moment, the reporting* makes it looks as if they knowingly sold products with known defects, which could get rather costly in many ways.

    * .. which may not have all the facts yet

  6. grumpyoldeyore

    Eagle Eyes

    Reminds me a bit of a battle my father had trying to get an electric carving knife kitemarked (pre CE days).

    As it already had TUV approval, he was somewhat surprised when BSI rejected it because of the shade of blue of the insulation of the neutral wire. When he queried it, he was presental with an optical spectrum along with the triumphant statment "TUV is a test house. We at BSI are a Standards Authority!"

    1. Archivist

      Re: Eagle Eyes

      In that era I had an appliance rejected for the percentages of green and yellow pigment on the earth cable being just outside the limit - something like 35%/65% rather than 40%/60%.

      All joking aside, I was the certification engineer for a Japanese company and we took BEAB/BSI testing seriously. Every model was tested before production, and any changes had to submitted for re-testing before incorporation. I'm not sure how practical that would be today, with so much free movement of goods.

    2. Vic

      Re: Eagle Eyes

      BSI rejected it because of the shade of blue of the insulation of the neutral wire

      There *might* have been grounds for that.

      The brown/blue/green&yellow coloiurs of the cables were picked very specifically because they are still distinctive to people with severe colour-blindness. For that to work, there does need to be a certain amount of precision to the colours.

      I've no idea whether your father's cables were effective in that respect or not, but I can see BSI's position; they were given a spec that would definitely work, and that cable didn't meet it.

      Vic.

  7. Crisp Silver badge

    You've got to love that quote from them...

    "We strongly refute any suggestion that safety concerns were ignored or dismissed without careful consideration."

    After reading that I was left with the impression that after careful consideration, the safety concerns were ignored and dismissed. Is that what they intended to say?

    1. chr0m4t1c

      Re: You've got to love that quote from them...

      I was left with the impression that EE don't know the difference between refute and repudiate.

  8. Mephistro Silver badge
    Flame

    I've seen that unicorn often enough...

    ... to seriously doubt the validity of the European commission response. Perhaps it was true when the EC produced said response, perhaps it's only a forgery by many Chinese manufacturers. Anyway, the "China Export" logo exists, it's almost identical to the CE logo and back then the EC was negotiating with the Chinese authorities to change the "China Export" logo so it couldn't be confused with the "true" CE logo. It would seem the negotiations didn't go too well, as you can still see those forged logos in every piece of low quality electronics gunk manufactured in China.

    If the EC really wanted to fix this problem, they would be confiscating stuff with said forged logos at customs, warehouses and shops. Collusion? Corruption? Incompetence?

    1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: the "China Export" logo exists

      Apparantly, it does not actually exist.

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        Re: the "China Export" logo exists

        A bureaucrat claiming they are not aware of something is on par with a politician being unable to recall.

      2. Mephistro Silver badge

        Re: the "China Export" logo exists

        Not sure whether it exists or not, but I'm pretty sure that many imports from China brandishing a similar logo haven't even applied for the official CE logo. On top of that, the Wikipedia link ("...and was in discussion with Chinese authorities to ensure compliance with European legislation" )seems to hint it exists. A different matter is whether this fake logo was created originally by the Chinese govt. (I think this is not the case, but I might be wrong) or by some cadre of dodgy Chinese manufacturers.

        1. Test Man

          Re: the "China Export" logo exists

          There is no such thing. At all. The name was bandied about by people to cover the fact that it was simply a (badly) copied CE mark, and it's now become a self-fufilling prophecy used by dodgy Chinese manufacturers who use it as an excuse whenever anyone of authority comes asking questions.

          Fact is it's not a thing whatsoever, and never has been.

          1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

            Re: the "China Export" logo exists

            Fact is it's not a thing whatsoever, and never has been.

            But isn't that the whole point? The suggestion is that unscrupulous Chinese companies intentionally put a fake CE mark (not complying with either the standards or the logotype) on a products to give the impression that it complies with the EU standards. If called on it they can reply "Oh, velly solly, you misunderstand. That isn't an EU 'CE' mark, it's just our way of saying 'China Export'. Nothing to see here, move along". There's certainly no official mark, outside of "Made in China".

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Needs more than just a CE mark (dodgy or otherwise)

              "But isn't that the whole point? "

              No.

              The point is that someone in the organisation doing the importing into Europe from China should have a clue about European product liability rules and such. If they don't have that level of clue then their employer has been professionally negligent.

              The European rules make it very clear that if the product is imported from outside the EU, then the importer (or similar) has to accept full responsibility for the product.

              The importer cannot simply say "it had a CE mark, we took the rest on trust". If there is no pre-existing Declaration of Conformity, it is the importer's responsibility to produce one according to the rules. Failure to do so? Professional negligence?

              Someone in the importer should have sufficient professional competence to understand that the CE mark implies the existence of some associated documentation. If that documentation doesn't even exist there is no reason for the importer to believe the CE mark is valid (what would you bet in this case? CE mark and no supporting documentation? 10% chance? 100% chance?).

              I'm not seeing very many legs for EE to stand on, given the story as told so far.

      3. DropBear Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: the "China Export" logo exists

        "Apparantly, it does not actually exist."

        Congrats on citing the exact same press release in three different places. "Chinese Export" doesn't exist exactly the way Santa Claus doesn't - it may not be an actually real thing but somehow the presents still get delivered in the form of stuff a) definitely coming from China b) definitely lacking any proper CE approval and c) definitely bearing the improper version of the mark. It looks like a duck, it quacks like a duck - it just "doesn't exist". Oh, sorry - "the EU isn't aware of its existence"...

  9. A Non e-mouse Silver badge
    FAIL

    Red-top article?

    I'd expect to read an article like this in the Daily Fail^HMail, not El Reg. OK, so the CE mark might be incorrectly printed, but did El Reg really need to devote so many words to such a minor transgression? Where's that El Reg tombstone icon when you need it?

    1. Jimmy2Cows

      Re: Red-top article?

      Not clocked the bright red top banner heading on each page on El Reg, huh...?

      Too subtle perhaps?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Red-top article?

      "I'd expect to read an article like this in the Daily Fail^HMail, not El Reg."

      One of my chores is a daily news round up for our business. And from this loathed duty, I have learned that there are no depths to which an editor will not stoop on a slow news day.

    3. Vic
      Joke

      Re: Red-top article?

      I'd expect to read an article like this in the Daily Fail^HMail

      What's "the Daily FaiMail" ?

      Vic.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Desperately bad and irresponsible pair of articles

    It really is scrapping the barrel to complain that they printed the CE mark incorrectly. This is not substantive. The earlier article which used risk management documentation to beat up EE was irresponsible. Products must be assessed for risk, that is how we ensure they are safe. Using this sort of document to publically criticise risks undermining that process. All risks shoudl be considered, documenetd and controlled, not just those which are deemed acceptable if leaked to the press which is the danger of this sort of irresponsible distorted reporting.

    If the register had any evience at all that a significant risk had been identified and knowingly ignored or tests that showed risk control measures did not work were accepted I am sure it would have been published. If evidenc eof thsi sort does appear then I would cheer reporting of it on until then teh register should shut up. Distorting good design practice to make it appear bad is dishonest and in the long run will hamper not enhance product safety.

    Whenever there is a problem with a product there should be an investigation as to the cause including an analysis of whether any of the design, development and quality/safety processes could have been improved. Normally multiple areas for improvement cna be identified. None of this is going to be helped by creating an environment in which companies are scared to document their safety analysis.

    1. Anonymous Coward 101

      Re: Desperately bad and irresponsible pair of articles

      I suppose it is 'sort of' bad that EE messed up the CE mark, in that you want attention to detail in these products. The photo apparently shows the letters too close together, not that anyone would doubt what the logo meant. Couple of other issues with the story:

      1. The text on the government website that is linked in the article clearly - when in context - relates to products that have been given a CE mark when they do not qualify for one.

      2. What was the point of referring to the 'Chinese Export' issue, given that it is irrelevant to the matter at hand? Is The Register suggesting that EE intentionally messed up the 'CE' marking so they could claim it meant 'Chinese Export'? That would be a serious issue, but nothing suggests they have done this.

    2. Martin-73 Silver badge

      Re: Desperately bad and irresponsible pair of articles

      If they failed to put the correct mark that was legally required on the goods, what ELSE did they fail to do that they were supposed to? I think that is the point of the article (other than being a good bit of clickbait :) )

      If a company can't be arsed to check that it's using the correct conformity logo, it may be halfarsing the testing too

  11. TeeCee Gold badge
    Alert

    Dodged a bullet there.

    Presumably if they were correctly CE marked and subsequently proven substandard, EE could be nailed to the cross for breaking the CE rules.

  12. steamnut

    The CE mark should be applied to applicable goods sold "put to market" in all EU countries. There should be a certificate of conformity listing the applicable categories that apply to the device shipped with the device. This declaration must be signed by an appointed officer within the company.

    The CE tests need not actually be made on the device and a lot of companies "self certify". If there is a problem with a device, or a complaint, then the paperwork (technical construction file) can be requested by interested parties such as Trading Standards. This document outlines the design of the device, the applicable CE tests that apply, results of any tests made, either internally, informally or by a CE test house. This document is your defence if challenged on any area of non-conformity.

    Recent changes to CE marking mean that the responsibility is with the last seller in the chain. Previously, importers would say "the Chinese manufacturer said it was tested". This is no longer an accepted defence. If you import an item from China (or elsewhere) then you must acquire or create the required paperwork and make it available for inspection in the UK. If an importer supplies distributors then these distributors need copes of paperwork too. This chain of responsibility continues until the final purchaser. In theory the buck can no longer be passed!

    In this case the buck stops with EE who should make the technical documentation available for inspection. EE could also be asked to substantiate their claims of CE conformity at their cost. EE ought to submit some samples to a CE test house else their defence will be difficult if damages are sought by injured parties.

    As some posters have pointed out a design can pass CE testing and then the cost accountants demand some seemingly non-essential parts are removed to increase the margin. Even if this does happen, the UK importer still has the ultimate responsibility and they are the company that will be sued. If the importer then wants to sue the Chinese manufacturer (assuming it could find them) then that is their responsibility.

  13. Your alien overlord - fear me

    CE = Chinese Export, we should be using EC for European Conformity. It's there in the words. I bet it was those damn garlic slurpers who misplet it and lead to this confusion.

  14. Peter Simpson 1
    Mushroom

    Let me guess...made in China?

    How many times do we need to reiterate this: if it's made in China, treat any certification marks with extreme skepticism.

    I've seen China manufactured devices with FCC compliance marks. Only problem is that under the FCC mark, you're supposed to print a code which identifies the manufacturer and the device. And you need to have submitted the device to the FCC for testing before that code is issued. What's a poor Chinese manufacturer to do? Use a code they found on another device, of course. The FCC in an uncharacteristic display of efficiency, has a website on which you can input the code and see the manufacturer name and product model number associated with it. Surprised they don't match what you hold in your hand? You shouldn't be, if it was made in China.

    Here's a test. Take a CE-marked mains-powered consumer device made in China. Disassemble. See how many creepage and clearance spacing violations you can find. Then ask yourself: did a competent safety testing organization ever see the inside of this product? We won't even get into the voltage ratings on the capacitors.

    iPhone charger teardown: http://www.righto.com/2014/05/a-look-inside-ipad-chargers-pricey.html

    I'm sure there are many fine products built in China. My iPhone is one of them. But the "do anything you have to to make money" attitude still seems strong in China. Until that attitude is changed, there will be exploding products made there.

    1. Drs. Security

      Re: Let me guess...made in China?

      precisely.

      And if they were, in some rare twist of the universe, then the inside of the test sample was at least fully compliant.

      Which is no guarantee that your production sample is as well.

    2. Lars Silver badge
      Happy

      Re: Let me guess...made in China?

      ""do anything you have to to make money" attitude still seems strong in China". So tell me where it's not and where all regulations are considered so very bad for the economy.

  15. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "We strongly refute any suggestion that safety concerns were ignored or dismissed without careful consideration" (my italics)

    So, they have strongly "provided evidence to prove the falsehood" of the suggestions. So, end of story, why are you harassing them? More to the point, why haven't you published the evidence they have provided to prove the falsehood? Or where they actually lying and they only CLAIMED the suggestions were false?

  16. Herby Silver badge

    I thought it stood for

    "Cheap Export" (in other words, pick your country of origin).

    It probably isn't worth the ink it is printed with anyway.

    This reminds me of ISO 9000/1/2/3 stuff as well.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I thought it stood for

      Iso 9000 doesn't guarantee some absolute level of quality, it provides the framework for enabling a company to produce consistent level of quality.

      Working for a european private label manufacturer, customers (supermarket chains) are always hunting for the optimal price/value. Some, like a certain huge UK based chain, can have their Value, Premium, and really premium products manufactured by the same factory. From a iso9000-quality point of view, these are all the same quality. The permissible number of defective products per shipping container, is the same, and the sample size tested is the same. Surprisingly, out of hundreds of customers, less than 5% require postproduction sampling. Either this speaks highly of the manufacturer, or means the shops trust their own end consumers to be the final QC. Who knows.

      The customer obviously thinks of the premium product as being higher quality, because it is manufactured to a better specification than the Value product.

  17. Jim 59

    Vulture seems to be inferring rather a lot from microscopic errors in the CE logo. Which the company has acknowledged and says it has corrected. They wouldn't give Vulture an internal document. Not that surprising, why should they? Not brilliant but not particularly outrageous there.

    This is the best part of the story: "Specific concerns raised within EE in the documents seen by The Register included variable quality..."

    I think perhaps you need to say more about what these docs were, who wrote them and when. CF Private Eye.

  18. Daz555

    EE are onto something here. The CE logo looks better when compressed together slightly.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: The CE logo looks better when compressed

      Think of it as a sort of checksum. If the logo is altered for reasons of appearance, you can be sure that they are interested in only superficial criteria, rather than them actually being interested in meeting the required standards and specifications :-)

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Example "technical file" ?

    Anyone know of an example "technical file"?

    We do some very low volume production using almost exclusively a case and modules that are CE marked but I do realise that the complete unit needs its own "technical file"

    Any pointers very gratefully received please.

    1. no_RS

      Re: Example "technical file" ?

      You need to read the relevant EU directives e.g. EMC and LVD plus the EU 'Blue Guide'.

      I would also look at the EMCTLA website as they have guidance on there which maybe useful.

      No-one is going to show you a technical file as it contains proprietary information but basically it describes what the product is and the justification for compliance e.g. test report, analysis, etc, what standards it complies with.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Example "technical file" ?

        Yes what you say is true. But often organisation requiring the information gives an example e.g. Company: XYZ Widgets PLC Item: Left handed WiFi Widgets...

        More companies will be compliant if they make it easier!

  20. no_RS

    What a load of rubbish

    EE have obviously screwed up and someone has been injured, if the publicity does anything then I hope people will get shot of these battery packs back to EE asap to prevent any further accidents or injuries.

    EE's supplier getting the marking slightly wrong is noise really and El Reg is just making a song and dance about it but missing the real point (very Daily Wail) that Li-Po batteries have such a high energy density that they need to be treated with care and respect otherwise they can fail spectacularly. In this case EE are responsible for the safety of the battery pack but the original supplier is going to get landed with the bill for sorting out the mess.

    I suspect EE have just accepted the battery pack manufacturers DoC and used this as the basis for their CE marking. The risk assessment performed shows they have considered things and they have come unstuck due to manufacturing quality issues.

    Lastly withholding the DoC is a strange thing to do as it is a public document that anyone with the product is entitled to have a copy of.

  21. Michael

    Article is wrong

    If anyone from the register cared to look up the regulations you can make the CE marking hollow:

    http://ec.europa.eu/DocsRoom/documents/11502

    4.5.1.4. Principles of affixing the CE marking

    "The CE marking can take different forms (e.g. colour, solid/hollow) as long as it remains visible, legible and respects its proportions. It must also be indelible so that it cannot be removed under normal circumstances without leaving noticeable traces (for example some product standards provide for a rub test with water and petroleum spirits).

    Nevertheless, this does not mean that the CE marking must form an integral part of the product. "

    1. Chris Evans

      Re: Article is wrong

      Using an outline version of the font is o.k. but the spacing between the C and the E are not compliant. It is nitpicking but where would you draw the line...

  22. Adrian Midgley 1

    fonts and such

    I'm interested in the things blowing up.

    I'm not interested in the font.

  23. After the Tone

    Mmmm .. Chinese made exploding power bars

    I wonder if there was a warehouse of these things in Tianjin waiting to be shipped.

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