The European single market for weighing instruments
The success of the single market for weighing instruments is driven by the interaction of four groups of actors, manufacturers, notified bodies, market surveillance authorities and inspection authorities. It is important to distinguish the last two groups as distinct actors.
The New Legislative Framework (NLF) assumes that manufacturers take the responsibility for the compliance of their product with all relevant directives. Notified bodies are responsible to confirm that instruments comply with the requirements set in Directive 2014/31/EU on non-automatic weighing instruments or Directive 2014/32/EU on measuring instruments. Market surveillance authorities of each member state must ensure that products covered by EU legislation have been placed on the market in compliance with the relevant applicable legislation.
The obligations of the New Legislative Framework are added to by national legislation after an instrument has been placed on the market. After that point, a product will be subject to the individual member state requirements. In this part of the lifecycle of an instrument, it will be the responsibility of national inspection authorities to ensure continued compliance.
Severe challenges with the current system due to inconsistent interpretations and different national requirements
This model of the NLF works well if there is a consistency of interpretation and implementation between all stakeholders; the product is not subject to alteration, addition, repair or replacement after it has been placed on the market; nor is subject to periodic inspection by national authorities. Products, where the procedures work well, are products unlikely to be altered or repaired once they have been placed on the market. This means that national legislation would have little bearing on them.
In cases where there is inconsistency in interpretation, verification, repairs and additions are necessary or there is a periodical inspection the successful operation of the single market is hindered. Weighing instrument manufacturers must adapt in those cases to the different technical interpretations and different bureaucratic procedures that each member state is at liberty to implement. Manufacturers face extra unnecessary costs and an administrative burden often preventing small and medium-sized enterprises to enter certain EU markets outside their own. In general, this leads to the contradictory situation of the reasonably successful operation of the single market up to the point a weighing instrument is placed on the market and more problematic situation once the instrument is in use.
Wide range of inconsistent interpretations hindering the European single market for weighing instruments
There are many examples of different national requirements influencing the operation of the single market with regard to the free movement of goods once the instrument has been placed on the market. Below three examples are presented to give an initial idea of the problems. However, there are numerous other examples that could be cited, such as the differing requirements relating to software downloads implemented by different member states and the re-qualification requirements that relate to this. Moreover, many similar examples that can be found in the re-qualification requirements for automatic weighing instruments as well.
Electronic Point of Sale Systems
A Point of Sale (POS) device is a separate module that is connected to a NAWI, that receives transaction data. Together with data not derived from the weighing instrument, this module presents transaction information to the customer.
The challenge faced by manufacturers is that the POS device is a module. The Directive 2014/31 EU is not clear as to how notified bodies, market surveillance authorities and inspection bodies should treat modules under inspection programs. This has led to an inconsistent implementation as regards the procedures when aNAWI that is used in conjunction is subject to repair and needs re-qualification.
A guidance note by WELMEC (European legal metrology co-operation body) on a common interpretation was published in 20071and is in the process of being updated for a number of years. Regrettably, it has been impossible to reach an agreement in the WELMEC groups on this revision. The market is subject to different interpretations in different member states of both the WELMEC Guide and the requirements of the Directive.
For instance, in Germany, it is necessary for the POS to be secured to the NAWI, whereas in other countries such as the Netherlands and Ireland this is not an obligation. The effect of this inconsistent interpretation is that in some Member States the separate modules can be re-qualified in an identical system based in the premises of the manufacturer. This means that they are re-qualified independently of their final location and “swapped” when they are in need of repair. In other countries, this is not possible and they must be re-qualified in situ.
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