Changes to radio rules
This, coupled with the growth of mobile devices and wireless applications, led the Commission to publish the new Radio Equipment Directive (RED) 2014/53/EU in the Official Journal of the European Union on 22 May 2014.
As the RED will be applicable from 13 June 2016, Member States now have a transition period of less than nine months to transpose the new RED into their national laws. However, manufacturers will have an additional year to comply, as equipment compliant with the current R&TTE Directive before 13 June 2016 may continue to be placed on the market until 13 June 2017.
Within Article 43 of the RED, a “making available on the market” and “putting into service” provision means that products which comply with the R&TTE Directive before 13 June 2016, and which are placed on the market before 13 June 2017, may be sold and brought into service later.
Where the RED applies
Products which fit within the following definition are subject to the RED:
“Radio equipment – an electrical or electronic product which intentionally emits or receives radio waves for the purpose of radio communication and/or radio determination, or an electrical or electronic product which must be completed with an accessory (such as an antenna) so as to intentionally emit and/or receive radio waves for the purpose of radio communication and/or radio determination.”
All radio receivers, including broadcast radio and TV receivers, fall within this definition.
Radio communication means ‘communication by means of radio waves’, while radio determination means the determination of the position, velocity and/or other characteristics of an object, or the obtaining of information relating to those parameters, by means of the propagation properties of radio waves.
The RED excludes equipment that is “radio equipment exclusively used for activities concerning public security, defence, State security, including the economic wellbeing of the State in the case of activities pertaining to State security matters, and the activities of the State in the area of criminal law”.
Marine equipment that falls within the scope of Council Directive 96/98/EC is also excluded. This includes equipment on board a new European ship, even if it was constructed outside of the EU, as well as replacement equipment or additional equipment installed on an existing European ship. Airborne products, parts and appliances falling within the scope of Article 3 of Regulation (EC) No 216/2008, and custom-built evaluation kits designed for professionals to be used solely at R&D facilities are also excluded.
Another exclusion is radio equipment used by radio amateurs, which falls within the meaning of Article 1, definition 56, of the International Telecommunications Union Radio regulations’. Such equipment must not be available on the market which means:
· Radio kits for assembly and use by radio amateurs
· Radio equipment modified by and for the use of amateurs
· Equipment constructed by individual radio amateurs for experimental and scientific purposes related to amateur radio.
Increasing compliance levels
The core goals of the RED are to strengthen the level of compliance, as well as clarifying and simplifying the Directive.
The RED’s new requirements are therefore intended to clearly spell out the responsibilities and obligations for every economic operator involved in the supply chain (manufacturer, importer, distributor, authorised representative). This means that all items of equipment that fall within its scope, placed on the European market for the first time, must follow a RED conformity assessment procedure.
The good news is that the general principles for product compliance in the RED are very similar to the R&TTE Directive. This is because compliance is within a set of essential requirements. Harmonised standards also provide a presumption of conformity with the essential requirements.
The RED also requires the use of a Notified Body where no radio or relevant Article 3.3 Harmonised Standard exists.
The changes made in the RED are in some instances wide ranging, with Annexes being renumbered and updated. The new Directive also sees the deletion of some unnecessary administrative obligations, which should reduce the organisational overheads of the economic operators that are required to comply.
One completely new element of the RED is intended to support the Commission’s push for mobile phones, and other portable devices, use a common charger. Consequently, the RED’s Essential Requirements now states that: “radio equipment interworks with accessories, in particular with common chargers”, which could represent significant costs for manufacturers, if this requirement is invoked by the European Commission.
Another significant change is that Telecommunication Terminal Equipment (TTE) i.e. fixed line terminal equipment, is now outside the scope of the RED and is instead covered by the EMC and Low Voltage Directives.
The RED now also includes much clearer obligations for economic operators and, to enable full traceability of supply, each economic operator must be able to identify who has supplied them with radio equipment and to whom they have supplied the radio equipment.
Article 10 (Obligations of manufacturers) refers to changes to the system for the Declaration of Conformity (DoC), with manufacturers now having two options within the new Directive. One option is to include a copy of the full DoC covering all applicable Directives with each piece of radio equipment.
The second option is to include a simplified DoC, but this must include the exact Internet address where the full version can be obtained. It must also be available in a language or languages required by the Member State in which the radio equipment is placed.
In fact, while the old Directive made no specific reference to language requirements, the new one requires that the manufacturer’s contact details are in a language easily understood by end-users and market surveillance authorities. It also states that the product must be accompanied by instructions in a language which can be easily understood, as determined by the Member State in which the product is being sold.
In most cases English should be acceptable, but there will be some Member States which insist information is translated into their native language before it can be sold. This will of course cost manufacturers both money and time – increasing time to market for new goods.
Article 17 of the new Directive also introduces that for the first time a safety assessment must now take into account reasonably foreseeable usage conditions. This means that a manufacturer must now anticipate how a person might misuse the equipment, not just the intended use as outlined in the equipment’s instructions.
New responsibilities for importers have also been introduced with regards to sample testing of products. However, it is not entirely clear at what point this becomes a mandatory requirement as the Directive uses the words “when deemed appropriate with regard to the risks presented by radio equipment”, so this is quite subjective. However, to protect the health and safety of consumers, importers will be required to carry out sample testing of radio equipment made available on the market.
Importers must investigate and keep a register of complaints of non-conforming radio equipment and of product recalls, and keep distributors informed of such monitoring. They are also required to keep a copy of the DoC 10 years after the radio equipment has first been placed on the market, as the market surveillance authorities will have a right to request a copy during that period of time.
Re-branded radio equipment is also included in Article 14. An importer or distributor takes on the responsibilities as if he were the manufacturer where he supplies radio equipment under his name or trade mark.
The RED now lays out more clearly the responsibilities of market surveillance authorities, and delivers them improved measures to support their activities, particularly relating to the traceability obligations of economic operators.
Where technical documentation does not comply, a market surveillance authority may ask the manufacturer or importer to have testing carried out at a laboratory acceptable to the market surveillance authority and at the expense of the manufacturer or importer.
Article 5 of the Directive (Registration of radio equipment within some categories) for the first time introduces the requirement to register products, which fall within categories showing low levels of compliance with the Essential Requirements, in a central database. It is intended that this will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of market surveillance and therefore contribute to a higher level of compliance with the Directive.
The RED’s wide ranging changes will require some significant adaptations to how radio equipment is manufactured and supplied. With its enforcement only nine months away, it is vital that those individuals within the supply chain understand their specific obligations, as well as those other economic operators they do business with. This will ensure that their equipment complies within the deadline and can continue to be sold on the European market.
About the author:
Jean-Louis Evans is Managing Director at TÜV SÜD Product Service, a global product testing and certification organisation, and at its sister company, TÜV SÜD BABT, the world’s leading radio and telecommunications certification body – www.tuv-sud.co.uk