The new Radio Equipment Directive (RED) 2014/53/EU will be applicable from 13 June 2016. This replaces the Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive (R&TTE), which was first introduced in April 2000, as the required method to show compliance of radio and telecoms equipment sold across the Europe.
Member States have little more than a year’s transition period to transpose the new RED into their national laws. 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.
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 radiodetermination, 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 radiodetermination.”
All radio receivers, including broadcast radio and, for the first time, TV receivers, fall within this definition.
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, as are 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. Another exclusion is radio equipment used by radio amateurs.
The road to compliance
The RED’s new requirements are intended to clearly spell out the responsibilities and obligations for every economic operator involved in the supply chain (manufacturer, importer, distributor, authorised representative). All items of equipment within its scope, placed on the European market for the first time, must follow a RED conformity assessment procedure.
The general principles for product compliance in the RED are very similar to its predecessor, the Radio and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Directive (R&TTE), in that 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.
One completely new element of the RED is intended to support the Commission’s push for mobile phones, and other portable devices, to be compatible with 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 outside the scope of the RED and is now covered by the EMC and Low Voltage Directives.
The RED 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.
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 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 14 months away, it is vital that those in the supply chain understand their specific obligations so that their equipment complies and it can continue to be sold on the European market after the deadline.
A new brochure, outlining the requirements of the RED in more detail is available for download here.