There can’t be many folk left who don’t know that active products sold onto the UK market must meet certain market access regulations. If you sell them without conforming to them, you commit an offence.
Furthermore, radio products must conform to the WT Act. That too requires compliance with this conformity before systems can be put into use. So although market access regulation is often not treated as a high priority, it actually has the capability of being a business show-stopper if you get it wrong and are caught.
Sadly, about 10 years ago, some EU Member State regulators acted on the suspicion that this regulation was being widely flaunted. They did some silent research, which confirmed their worst fears. Let me immediately say that professional radio (known in the UK as business radio) came out as one of the best sectors.
But other sectors in the radio industry basically had almost no compliant product found in their research. It was no surprise that the EU policy decision was that the regulations had to be tightened up. More importantly, the enforcement had to be tightened up and the penalties had to be increased to become more of a deterrent.
Okay, you can sort of understand this. However, that isn’t the full picture. The truth is that in the business radio world, a lot of companies actually do try hard to meet these rules and regulations, even though the costs are very high. Only a relatively small proportion of companies don’t bother. They see the avoidance of the associated costs as a route to commercial advantage.
The problem for all of us good guys is that, with the current level of enforcement, the bad guys are very unlikely to suffer, while us good guys continue to compete at a disadvantage. Unless the UK enforcement tightens up, any increase in the regulation makes this market distortion far worse. So, if there is no way to avoid an increase in the regulation, can we at least have a level playing field?
For years the regulation operated at the point of first placement on the EU market. Now, everyone selling product – regardless of where they are in the value chain – has an obligation to sell only conformant equipment.
Thus we have the current situation where the regulations have no big impact on the majority of the industry (other than to check the presence of a CE mark, etc.), so will grow into a far more substantive duty. Hopefully, the supply community will make the necessary adjustments to make this tolerable for the distribution chain.
Conformity is achieved through compliance to around 11 fundamental EU Directives. These have already been, or are in the process of being, replaced by new Directives that enact the new policies.
This means that over time, every single Declaration of Conformity and the other associated documents, will have to be changed to refer to the new measures. By the way, how many suppliers have photographs of the product included in their DoCs?
There are also other requirements such as keeping better records, and keeping them for longer. Probably not such a big issue for the more professional end of the industry, as they probably all meet the new regulations already for other reasons.
Do not ignore
This has a long way to run yet. I have met with some people who have a worrying lack of interest in this. Others are obviously moving forward into the new regime. Please don’t ignore this. You might get the privilege of being the first company to be severely whacked.
The bottom line for the UK regulation and enforcement community seems to be this. If the new regulations are implemented and enforced exactly as written, then, when someone is found to have contravened, the impact on that company could be very serious.
This would obviously pass a message to the entire industry, but would distort things if that same treatment wasn’t also meted out to everyone who contravenes.
If the people who wish to continue to avoid the costs of compliance are allowed to get away with it, this equates to our regulators further encouraging illegal behaviour. I don’t think they want to do that. In the new regime they will be able to charge for things such as conformity testing. That ought to help them improve the costs.
Other EU Member States won’t have this debate at all. They will simply go to the furthest end-stop of the regulation and start from there. The UK positioning itself to have a more moderate regime could be completely irrelevant as most suppliers are international and so may well decide to default to the most extreme regime.