What does “CE” mean on consumer products?

Dear Cecil:

What is the meaning of the "CE" symbol found on many consumer products these days?

Cecil replies:

It’s officially called the “CE marking,” and it means that the product complies with the international technical and safety standards issued by the European Union, previously known as the European Community (hence CE). The standards govern things like toy safety, telecommunications terminals, electrical equipment, scales, etc., where you want to enforce a certain uniformity. The standards are narrowly drawn, and the CE marking can’t be considered a mark of overall quality, though that may change in time. The marking thing is part of a broad effort to lower trade barriers between EU nations, in effect creating a huge domestic market like the one that’s been such a boon for manufacturers in the U.S.

Send questions to Cecil via cecil@straightdope.com.

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