Market surveillance of electrical equipment in Finland : analysis and development

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TUKES publication, TUKES-julkaisu, 9/2002
The importance of market surveillance has been recognised by many agencies and individuals in many contexts. Without market surveillance, the conformity of the products on the market, as well as the common playing field for entrepreneurs, can not be guaranteed. Safety is the most important aspect of conformity. For the realistic realisation of market surveillance, exceptional resources are called for; it can not be done superficially and needs total commitment. About 8.5 M€ has been allocated to market surveillance in Finland annually. Irrespective of these facts, very little research has been carried out on the market surveillance of any product field. The safety and environmental compatibility enforcement of electrical equipment in Finland changed in 1994 when Finland joined the European Economic Area (EEA). Today, supervision is based on international obligations and TUKES is responsible for maintaining it in Finland. Finland has invested considerably in the surveillance of electrical products, and TUKES has a recognised reputation for its work in Finland and abroad. The aim of this research was to clarify 1) if today's governing systems (legislation, standards, etc.) ensure that electrical equipment is safe and compatible; and 2) if TUKES's market surveillance is appropriate for today's needs and if it fulfils the principles of modern authority supervision. Following these clarifications, this research specified the means and methods as to how the governing systems and TUKES's operations should be improved so as to better fulfil the needs of citizens and entrepreneurs now and in the future. The empirical study consisted of four parts. One of them assessed TUKES's market surveillance of electrical products by utilising the European Foundation for Quality Management criterions. Another part examined through interview surveys, the way importers of electrical equipment operate and the expectations and opinions of subjects of supervision with regard to how TUKES carries out surveillance. The interviewed individuals were selected from TUKES's product consistency enforcement database (the TUVA database), which contains information on all market surveillance cases with regard to electrical equipment in Finland since 1994; to date over 10,000 cases have been recorded. The actual research material consisted of profound face-to-face interviews with ten importers and a telephone survey of 101 entrepreneurs. The third part of the empirical study was composed of TUKES's market surveillance projects that inspected the electromagnetic compatibility (EMC) of products. The projects were carried out 1997-2002 and they were directed to equipment groups whose EMC features had been known to be problematic: uninterruptible power supplies, personal computers, frequency converters and energy-saving lamps. In each project, typical products of this group were tested, results were analysed and the reasonableness of products' EMC requirements were evaluated from technical, as well as administrative points of view. In the fourth part of the empirical study, the TUVA database was statistically analysed. Also, the Finnish Communication Regulatory Authority's and Digita Ltd's interference statistics were researched for provision of comparative information for analysing TUKES's EMC surveillance. The main focus of market surveillance is to inspect the operation of the "system" and to see that all parties concerned observe their responsibilities. This research indicated that both the governing systems and TUKES's market surveillance met expectations, even though there was room for improvement. The biggest problems in governing systems were found to be in technical standards. Another big problem is the fact that levels of market surveillance in the EEA are very different. Market surveillance is a good system for supervising series products intended for the normal consumer. On the other hand, the supervision of non-serial products as well as business-to-business products is much more complicated. Unfortunately, market surveillance does not make it possible to have an influence on the compatibility of products, whose electromagnetic features mostly depend on the method of installation and how and where they are used. If the manufacturer has specified these aspects so as to fulfil his/her own vested interest, the Authority has no tools. This is because legislation concerning EMC does not require that a product be manufactured so as to cater for any possible impending misuse. From the safety legislation point of view, this requirement is strictly observed. The most effective way to prevent the appearance of more dangerous or non-compatible electrical equipment is to change legislation and general attitudes so that it should always be more profitable and rewarding to follow the safety and conformity rules, which is far better than trying to do the conformity assessment procedure at as low a price as possible. Finland is a small market area and for this reason, global manufacturers are not interested in making products solely for the Finnish market. It is reasonable to believe that improvements in only TUKES's own market surveillance would hardly reduce the number of non-conforming products on the Finnish market. If market surveillance were effectively operational throughout the EEA, manufacturers would be driven to invest more in the quality and conformity of their products. TUKES must actively strive towards better and more effective EEA-levels of market surveillance, at the same time, nevertheless not neglecting its prime responsibilities in monitoring the Finnish market. Today, goods flow around the world at unbelievable speed. In the long term, global safety and EMC requirements as well as their enforcement throughout should be the target to aim for.
market surveillance, Finland, electrical equipment, product safety enforcement, Low Voltage Directive, EMC Directive, electromagnetic compatibility
Other note
  • J. Rajamäki, S. Tuominen, V.-P. Nurmi, R. Mattinen and H. Mattila, EMC and LV Directive Enforcement in Finland - an Analysis Using the EFQM Model, in Proceedings of the 2nd WSEAS International Conference on Nanoelectronics and ElectroMagnetic Compatibility (ICONEMC 2002), Skiathos, Greece, September 2002, pp. 1921-1926. ISBN 960-8052-68-8.
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  • J. Rajamäki, How to get EMC Matters into Good Order with your Clone Micro Computer, in Proceedings of the 2000 IEEE International Symposium on Electromagnetic Compatibility, Washington D.C., USA, August 2000, pp. 657-662. ISBN 0-7803-6571-2. [article5.pdf] © 2000 IEEE. By permission.
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