Abuse of CE Mark by flue system counterfeiters
The introduction of the CE Mark in July was supposed to create a Europe-wide level playing field in the standard of flue systems, but according to John Hamnett there has been a rise in the number of dangerous, sub-standard counterfeit flue systems that are being passed off as genuine CE-marked systems
THE VAST majority of us in the flue industry had been waiting a long time for commercial marketplace standards to be introduced. So, in July, we welcomed the introduction of the CE Mark with open arms because it brought in a new level of reassurance to construction companies, contractors and the owners of buildings that flue products meet the highest standards of manufacturing and technical expertise.
The CE Mark emblem provides them with the reassurance that all the correct procedures and frequent factory production surveillance are in place to control the quality of all manufactured chimney flue components and to ensure that the level of purchased materials such as steel, insulation and sealant are to the highest standards possible.
But it hasn't taken long for the gloss to fade. I suppose we should be flattered because, after all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But, frankly, the post-CE Mark problem of counterfeit goods only serves to tar us all with the same brush and to leave establishments such as hospitals, schools, offices and other commercial buildings at best vulnerable and at worst inoperable. And, in all cases, the counterfeit systems are dangerous and illegal.
Time and again I've read articles about the false economy of buying cheaper products or systems. The tough economic trading conditions of the last few years have been a stark reminder of the need to get absolutely the best deals possible - and that's completely understandable. But what if construction companies, contractors and the owners of buildings had in good faith thought they'd done the right thing in having CE-marked components and systems installed - only to find out to that they haven't?
We've seen a rise in the number of jobs we've been called to - including the manufacturing facility of a well-known food producer - where site managers say that their boiler and flue systems aren't working properly and they can't figure out why. To the untrained eye, the CE Mark paperwork and the systems all seem kosher, but we can spot counterfeits a mile off.
Clarifying CE Mark accreditation
For the sake of clarity, the CE Mark accreditation is the manufacturer's declaration that the product meets the requirements of the applicable EC directives. This signifies that the product conforms to all EC directives that apply to it (this is referred to as a conformity assessment), such as the requirements for metal chimneys. These are Part 1: Systems chimney products and Part 2: Metal flue liners and connecting flue pipes, which have designations of BS EN 1856-1:2009 and BS EN 1856-2:2009, respectively.
As the manufacturer of CE-marked goods, we verify that the product complies with all applicable EC requirements in BS EN 1856-1:2009 and BS EN 1856-2:2009. Also, as stipulated in any directive, we have to have them examined by a notified conformity assessment body - in this case, the conformity assessor is the British Standards Institution (BSI).
This ensures that the paperwork and certification relating to a chimney or flue system with the CE Mark logo contain designation number 0086, which is the BSI assessment body number.
Also, all systems and/or individual components must identify the destinations of the systems and components, as detailed within BS EN 1856. If this cannot be displayed on the system itself, supporting documentations should be produced to identify the CE Mark or accreditations of the systems and components.
At this point, we should also mention that we come across individual components and, in a few instances, full flue systems that have been installed without the CE Mark. And that's illegal.
Telling the good from the bad
Badly manufactured components will always be an issue within any industry, and even though on first inspection they may appear high quality, they may not always be manufactured to the standards that clients would expect, and long term performance will be an issue.
// The author is the director of A1 Flue Systems //
1 December 2013