The construction products sector represents a huge part of the UK’s construction industry - it accounts for more than 40% of total construction output. The products sector is often overshadowed by construction projects themselves, and legal issues faced by the products sector are rarely examined.
Sustainability issues loom large in the construction products world as they do in the construction sector generally. Another issue that has come onto the agenda more recently is CE marking of construction products. CE marking acts as a passport for construction products, allowing them to be sold freely in the European Economic Area (“EEA”). When a product is CE marked, it indicates that the product complies with applicable European technical standards.
Under UK law it is not compulsory for products manufactured in the UK to be CE marked, provided that those products otherwise comply with applicable technical standards. However, the EU Commission has recently proposed introducing a Construction Products Regulation that will make CE marking compulsory. (The significance of construction and construction products has been impressed on the European Parliament in other ways, with the collapse of the Parliament’s roof in August 2008).
The UK government has recently published a report on industry attitudes and the pros and cons of making CE marking compulsory.
- Industry groups are generally in favour of compulsory CE marking. Compulsory marking will improve the marketability of products throughout the EEA, and should provide some protection against the dumping of inferior products from outside the EEA.
- However, compulsory CE marking will mean an increased administrative burden and more significantly an increased cost to manufacturers, particularly those whose market may only be domestic.
In an industry that has already been hard-hit by the downturn in the construction industry (particularly the home building market), compulsory CE marking may be a bit hard to swallow. But don’t fret just yet - it looks as though the proposed Construction Products Regulation will only take effect from mid-2011…by which point hopefully the market will have rebounded. Oh, and if you would like to comment on the proposed Construction Products Regulation, you can do so by contacting the Department for Communities and Local Government - but the closing date for responses is 10 November 2008.