The European Union is not only a political union but also an economic one that has a regulatory regime designed to ensure the quality of goods and services. It has thus devised a checklist with regulations and standards that merchandise manufactured by its member states and stakeholders must meet. These regulatory measures also ensure that goods and services move freely within its member states. In addition, this body sees to it that common policies like the use of a common currency are applied in the market operations and this makes it easy for member states to engage in various businesses.
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On the other hand, the EU looks into the quality standards that must be put in place in the manufacture, usage and disposal of electronic devices. It was with this issue therefore that the EU resolved to introduce the Electromagnetic Compatibility directives which would be enforced and monitored to ensure that the environment was kept free of electromagnetic waste and that manufacturers took more responsibility in guiding users on the usage and disposal of electronic equipment (The World Fact Book, 2010). This paper looks at the EU regulatory directives with special focus on the EU Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) directive.
EU Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) directive that an electrical, electronic and computer products need to comply with
The EU came up with a directive on electromagnetic compatibility in 1997 well known as the 89/336/EEC. This directive lacked legal status and there was a great need to modify it and in 2004 and a new directive under the title 2004/108/EC came into place. The objectives of introducing this EMC directive were to enhance the free movement of electronic goods in the EU market. In addition, this objective was geared at ensuring that the environment was kept safe through the manufacture of electromagnetic apparatus that are acceptable according to the set standards. This directive not only applied to fixed installations but also to apparatus circulating in the EU market.
To ensure that compatibility with these regulations was adhered to, the EU came up with certain provisions. These included checks that would ensure that the equipment would meet the laid down requirements. Good engineering also coupled up as a provision to govern the compatibility regulations and member states had to come up with measures that would curb non compliancy. These modifications gave the 2004/108/EC directive a legal status which included clear distinctions on what was acceptable and what was not. In addition, the new directive emphasised on the inclusion of definitions of the electromagnetic equipment to shed clarity to the buyers. (European Union, 2010).
Another directive on compatibility that electrical, electronic and computer products need to comply with protection requirements laid down by the EU. This equipment must undergo an assessment procedure which ensures that they meet all the requirements. Fixed installations are however exempted from the EC Declaration of Conformity (DoC) as well as the CE marking and though they must meet the protection requirements. Manufacturers have to present their technical documentation on the equipment they have manufactured and this must be clearly laid down. This electronic equipment must also be free from electromagnetic disturbances which may cause other equipment to function abnormally (pp. 16-30).
Due to growing technology, electronic waste has multiplied and the EU has come up with two more directives aimed at combating this menace. The RoHS Directive does not allow the use of hazardous materials during the manufacture of electronic products. This directive minimises environmental pollution when the equipment becomes redundant or gets damaged. The second directive, best known as the WEE Directive advocates for recycling of electronic waste to ensure that it does not harm the environment. This directive therefore demands that manufacturers take back their damaged or outdated products and recycling them to manufacture other usable products (Lane, 2006).
Just in case the manufacturers forfeit these directives, they are liable to pay for the damages incurred in terms of pollution. These directives take off the burden of dealing with electronic waste from the entrepreneurs and outs it on the manufacturers who have viable options on their disposal. All electronic apparatus must have the mark ‘CE’ affixed on them as an indicator that they have tested and passed the set EU requirements. These directives therefore emphasize on recycling and reuse of electronic products and these requirements must be met by electrical, electronic and computer products (CBI, 2003).
To effect these regulations, the EU gave manufacturers and entrepreneurs a transitional period which would give each party ample time to adjust. This ensured that they did not give excuses on not meeting the set directives citing a short notice. The EU then embarked on a sensitisation crusade which aimed at enlightening all parties from the community level to make sure that no one was left out in this defining process (Lane, 2006).
Organizations responsible for enforcing and monitoring the EMC directives within the UK
The EU has set up organisations in various countries to ensure that the formulated directives are adhered to. These organisations have the role of monitoring and enforcing the EMC Directives. They ensure that the products in use are environmental friendly in that they do not emit electromagnetic interferences. They also ensure that these equipment bear immunity to low interferences. These products are thus tested to ensure that they meet the laid down requirements (Conformance, 2008).
The Trading Standards Service and Ofcom is one of the bodies in the United Kingdom that enforces and monitors the EMC directives. The Electromagnetic Compatibility Regulations 2006 is also active in the UK in the implementation of the EU directives on electromagnetic compatibility. The other body responsible for this is the Health and Safety Executive which conducts investigations to rid the market of products that do not comply with the EU directives.
Defaulters of these directives suffer penalties as directed by the EU. For instance, suppliers who deal with products that are not compliant with the directives end up paying a fine of up to £5000 or serve a three-month jail term. Manufacturers of such products are required to replace them with compliant ones or else withdraw them from the market. These bodies have the powers to prohibit the sale of noncompliant apparatus or suspend them for some time until they prove they can manufacture equipment that complies with the EU directives (Conformance, 2008).
Bodies responsible for EMC within the USA or any other developed country outside the EU
The enforcement of the EMC Directives is a responsibility of each member state and they must ensure that their territories are free from non-compliant apparatus. This responsibility is handled by custom officers as well as trading standards officers. The Custom Officers have the duty of assessing all goods entering their state whereas the Trading Standards Officers have the duty of inspecting goods being exported to the EU markets. Some of the enforcing and monitoring bodies in the US include the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which regulates the use of equipment that may interfere with radio frequencies (Regulatory Agencies, 2010).
It therefore has the duty of restricting the RF signals as well as assigning them to safe frequencies. The other body is the Underwriters Laboratory (UL) which is a privately owned company. Its role is certifying safe products through rigorous testing and it ensures that they meet the EUs directives on compliancy. There are other regulatory bodies in both EU and non-EU countries.
For instance, Canada is home to the Canadian Standards association (CSA) which deals with ensuring that products are safe for use and also checks their compliancy with the set standards. Canada is also home to Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and IC-DoC. Germany has a regulatory body known as the TUV which regulates product safety. Sweden has the TCO body as well as the MPR-DoC, agencies that specialise in checking emission characteristics in the magnetic and electric fields (Regulatory Agencies, 2010).
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However, the enforcing and monitoring process has not been without fault and the EU has braved the blunt of it all. For instance, efficiency, enforcement and equity have been major problems that these organisations have encountered in their line of duty. Some of these institutions have failed to deliver results due to various management weaknesses while others have lacked the necessary data to cater to the requirement needs. On the other hand, the EU has to be applauded for taking a great step in fighting the climate changes by curbing environmental pollution as a result of electronic waste (Kruger and Pizer, 2004).
Why EU directives are used to address technical issues
Lack of clear cut directives on the manufacture and use of apparatus can be detrimental to the environment which will directly impact on users. The EU has well defined directives on the requirements and that is why they are used to address technical issues. For instance, radio communications could disorganise the airwaves completely if people set the frequencies at their own will. The EU directives demand that these communications go hand in hand with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) regulations. This body ensures that users are spared the electromagnetic disturbances (Savage, 2006).
In addition, the EU directives are fair and effective and this harmonises the market. Manufacturers and users are therefore cushioned against unscrupulous dealings. The EU standards are the people’s watchdog to ensure that they get quality products that do not pose any harm to them. Their insistence on apparatus and fixed installations coming with detailed descriptions is vital in the sense that the layman may not understand the technicalities used. Inclusion of such details makes it easy to use the apparatus since they are easy to understand (Savage, 2006).
The mark of quality, ‘CE’ is another reason why equipment sells as people are assured that it meets all the required standards as per the EU directives. This makes them feel safe using the apparatus as ‘CE’ is a trusted mark of quality in EU and non- EU countries. The disposal of electronic waste is tricky for the layman and many entrepreneurs had to deal with the inconveniency of hiring warehouses for the electronics they had outgrown. Thanks to the EU, this technical issue has been addressed in the directives which demand that manufacturers embark on a take-back scheme. This involves them taking back the electronic apparatus that are not needed anymore for recycling, a factor that contributes to the question on why EU directives are used to address technical issues.
The EU has also imposed a requirement on manufacturers that plods them to be more creative in their processes to be able to provide the consumer with apparatus that are reusable, recoverable and recyclable. Manufacturing companies also have the duty of availing households which act as collection centres for waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE). This saves the entrepreneur a lot of hassle when it comes to disposing electronic products that have outlived their use. Another reason why EU directives are used in solving technical issues is that they urge manufacturers to cater for the recovery and treatment of electronic waste. This is meant to rid the environment of harmful waste which can lead to land, water and air pollution. This will go a long way into ensuring that the environment is freed from electromagnetic pollution which has contributed to global warming in the recent past (Savage, 2006).
The EU regulatory directives were put in place to promote a free market where quality merchandise would be manufactured and distributed to entrepreneurs as evidenced by this report. The EU wanted to have an upper hand in issues that concerned the setting of policies which gave a clear outline on the quality of merchandise that could sell in the free market. This led to the introduction of the directive 2004/108/EC which dwelt on electromagnetic compatibility.
For many years, the market had been plagued with electronic waste which was wrongly disposed and ended up polluting the environment. There was therefore a need to act swiftly and save the environment from such degradation. In addition, electronic merchandise which did not meet the required standards found its way into the market and thus put the users at a great risk. These concerns prompted the EU to come up with the aforementioned directives which gave clear requirements on what was acceptable and what was not.
The EU had to get representatives in Member States as well as in countries that were not members whose role would be to enforce and monitor the set directives. That is why there are bodies such as the Trading Standards Service and Ofcom in the UK, the Federal Communications Commission in the USA as well as the Underwriters Laboratory in Canada to mention but a few. All these organisations act as the people’s watchdog to ensure that they get quality products.
The enforcing and monitoring process initiated by the EU has not been without its hiccups. It has faced several pitfalls such as inefficiency on the part of manufacturers and acting agencies, equity issues as well as enforcement problems. The process has not only been expensive but also slow and this has brought about allowance allocation issues. There have also been concerns on compliance with some of the requirements being considered impractical. However, we have to applaud the EU for the noble course it has taken towards saving the environment from the prevailing climate changes which have been attributed to environmental pollution.
CBI. (2003). EU legislation: Take-back electronics (WEEE). Market Information data base, 1(1), 1-3.
Conformance. (2008). Electromagnetic compatibility directive. CE marking and product safety consultancy, 2(5), 1-2.
European Union. (2010). Guide for the EMC directive 2004/108/EC. EU Directives Journal, 8(2), 1-67.
Kruger, J. & Pizer, W. A. (2004). Opportunities and potential pitfalls. The EU emissions trading directive, 1(1), 4-62.
Lane, K. (2006). Implementing the new Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) Directive 2004/108/EC in the United Kingdom. Official Journal of the European Union, 24 (2), 14-113.
Regulatory Agencies. (2010). Regulatory agencies and compliance requirements. Tyco Electronics Systems, 5(4), 1-2.
Savage, M. (2006). Implementation of the waste electric and electronic equipment directive in the EU. Joint Research Centre, 21(2), 1-108.
The World Fact Book. (2010). European Union. Central intelligence agency, ISSN 1553-8133.