It’s time for sense and reason following the latest UKCA Marking delay

After the Government announced that the implementation of the UKCA Marking had been delayed again to 2025, Craig Sanders, joint managing director of Protrade, has called for the UK Government and EU to see sense and revert back to a perfectly fine and previously accepted universal standard.

So, the inevitable happened. The UK government, once again, delayed the implementation of the UKCA Marking.

This UK-equivalent product safety mark was supposed to provide assurance that manufacturers were working to consistent safety and product standards.

While Brexit has made this new marking a necessity – thanks to the EU stating it would no longer recognise products tested in the UK – all it has done is cause frustration and confusion.

Even with the initial January 2023 deadline for UKCA implementation, business owners have been desperately searching for testing houses in this country so that they could fulfil the new requirements.

The biggest issue was that those testing houses just didn’t exist.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds have been invested in new testing facilities and equipment in a race to address the situation with that looming deadline in mind, only for the Government to backtrack, for a third time, last month and push the deadline right back to 2025.

To no one’s surprise, the latest extension has only caused more frustration, bringing more unnecessary costs to businesses. Here at Protrade, I wouldn’t like to think about how many hours have been spent discussing the matter, the hours of time, the phone calls with third parties and companies invested in equipment that they didn’t need.

This flip-flopping makes a mockery of the whole thing.

The senseless cost of replicated data

While the recurring goal-post shifting has been a frustration, the fact we’re doing it over the same requirements is equally so.

For anyone that is unfamiliar with the UKCA Marking, the standard requirement it needs to carry is exactly the same as the EU’s CE Marking. Regardless of where items are tested, the results will be the exact same.

The only difference is that the testing needs to be done in this country rather than in another across the channel.

It’s a replication of data at enormous costs. If you did a controlled test of what temperature water boils at, it doesn’t matter what country you’re in, what culture you have, or what political persuasion you work to. It will be 100 degrees.

Understandably, the costs are huge to make this change, but it is a change that potentially wipes out the profits of smaller companies as a result. All that happens is you send that very same product off for the very same testing using the very same protocol. The answers you’ll get back are identical.

This wait and change to our industry are wholly unnecessary. At this point, and taking Brexit off the table here, does it not just make more sense for the UK and EU to get together and mutually recognise that the CE Marking is acceptable in the UK again?

How are UK distributors being impacted by UKCA marking?

The price of getting product lines UKCA approved goes far beyond just paying for testing.

Distributors and merchants also have to think about the artwork and branding on product boxes so that they are all up to date. There’s a lot more to consider than initially meets the eye.

Here at Protrade, we were very fortunate with one of our CE-marked products. We had luckily run to almost zero, and we were able to print new boxes with the UKCA branding.

But any business that ordered boxes with the wrong accreditation is now going to have wasted tens of thousands of pounds on the packaging that will have to be scrapped.

That itself raises an entirely different environmental issue too.

To invest or not to invest in a UKCA future

All this latest delay has done is kick the can down the road to be dealt with for another time.

However, as I’ve already alluded to, thousands of pounds have already been invested in the UKCA Marking by many companies. Those that built testing facilities have now been forced to redeploy people and won’t be expecting the level of business they had projected.

Alongside that, UK distributors and merchants may have already signed binding contracts with much higher prices with UK-based testing companies, thinking they didn’t have a choice.

Will we be in exactly the same position in two years’ time?

At this point, who could blame business owners for debating whether or not the UKCA will actually be implemented at all?

Come the Summer of 2024, it’s likely that there will be such an enormous demand for this UKCA testing to be conducted, the testing houses will simply be overwhelmed – more totally unnecessary panic and pressure!

Who can blame a company, like ourselves, for waiting and waiting until the midnight hour to see if we need to make this investment or not, having already just escaped being burned for a significant amount of money?

Many of the biggest importers in the country are going to sit tight on this and see how it plays out. There will be a last-minute dash, with hundreds of thousands of product lines that need testing in a three-month period, depending on the outcome.

Then it will be a complete bottleneck in the system. And of course, good old-fashioned supply and demand mean that there will be 24-hour shifts, so prices will go up, and there will be even more inflation.

So, what comes next?

Let’s start with the good news. For now, any existing products that were CE marked in the EU are still allowed to be distributed in the UK.

Now for the bad. Any new products will need to be UKCA certified in this country, which means using UK-based testing houses.

While the solution will work in the meantime, the Government has told business owners that this is only temporary. After backtracking several times, though, it’s getting harder and harder to hear that.

So, that begs the question, will the UKCA marking ever be fully implemented? Or will some sense and reason be found and have all CE standards pass UK checks?

I guess only time will tell.

All images have been downloaded and approved for editorial use by Shutterstock and Unsplash.

Author: Craig Sanders Joint Managing Director Protrade


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