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The UKCA mark for independent games designers


I’ve written a few times about CE marking for independent games designers and people have found it reasonably useful (https://www.manokentgames.com/single-post/2018/03/31/ce-marking-in-boardgames-advice). For those who are not aware, a CE mark is logo that the EU demands you place on your product to sell it legally within the EU (yes, irrespective of the age limit that you print on that game or if you market it as a collector’s item), and the EU have set out a series of directives laying out the safety testing you should have in place before being able to place the logo on your product. Back in 2016 the UK voted to leave the EU, this is going to take place at the end of 2020 so from the 1st of January 2021 if you want to sell your game legally in the UK you will need to look into having something new, the UKCA mark. Firstly, don’t worry, its not as big an issue as you might think, depending on where you get your current testing done it should be little more than extra paperwork.


Do I need it?


In short, yes. If you needed a CE mark to sell in the EU (and you did) then you need the UKCA mark to sell in the UK. There are two exceptions, one temporary which I’ll explain in a second, the other is that if a product was on sale in the UK prior to 1st Jan 2021 you don’t need to add the UKCA mark. There is no conflict to having both the UKCA and the CE mark, and presumably most products in sale in the UK from now on will have both. The UKCA mark will not be recognised in the EU, though for a time the CE mark will continue to be recognised in the UK.


When do I need it?


Technically if a product is put on sale post 1st Jan 2021 in the UK it should have a UKCA mark. However, there are two transition periods. The first is until 1st Jan 2022 during which the CE mark will continue to be recognised in the UK, the second is until 1st Jan 2023 during which the UKCA mark can be attached to a product via a sticker rather than permanently printed onto it.


In short though, its easiest to have it from now on. If you went to print prior to 1st Jan 2021 you’re fine with your CE mark, if you’ve printed post 1st Jan 2021 you really should have the UKCA mark.


What is it?


Well, very basically its an image of the letters UKCA which can be downloaded here:


https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/912349/ukca-mark-fill.zip


As long as the UK government doesn’t change the link. Practically its exactly the same as the CE marking regulations. The UK government even say as much when explaining it, currently, if you have testing to justify a CE mark then it also justifies a UKCA mark. Now, over time this might change if things diverge between the two sets of legislation, but honestly, they haven’t changed much in ways that actually effect standard board games in the last ten years and I don’t foresee them changing much in the future. My best advice here, without knowing your game is, if you’ve got a game without any strange or exotic components (cards, board, counters made of card, plastic or wood, box, that sort of thing) the testing will be the same across both marks. So essentially, other than sticking another mark on your game box very little should change for you. There are three significant exceptions, your testing centre, your responsible agent location and more than anything your paperwork.


Testing Centres


At the moment what it boils down to is that the UK will accept testing that takes place in a centre licensed to make testing that complies with EU regulations as acceptable for UKCA marking, but that the EU may or may not accept testing that takes place within a centre that complies with UK regulations for CE marking. We really don’t know since that is still being negotiated at this point (22/09/2020). What we do know is that printing outside the UK and using a non-UK testing centre will definitely make life easier and quicker for you. If you’re already printing and testing outside the UK then that’s great, if you’re testing within the UK then you will need to check that your testing centre has been licenced to test to EU regulations and currently that’s not a system that is fully in place. For the record, yes, this means that UK manufacturing is likely to take a serious hit in the coming years.


Responsible agent location


Responsible agents and importer locations is a thorny issue when sending goods into the EU and CE marking territories already, and I’ve tried to lay out the situation in previous blogs. Suffice to say, if you are in the EU and want to sell in the UK you’ll now technically need a responsible agent location in the UK and visa versa, and if you’re selling from outside the EU you’ll need two responsible agent locations to sell your product in the EU and the UK. My previous comments on this issue still stand, at least until more information is forthcoming, and I expect to learn a good deal more on the subject in the next 24 months or so. In short, you are theoretically meant to place an address on your product within the UK/EU to fulfil the regulations of traceability, but it seems that if you place a business address location that you can actually be traced to and maintain that address that has historically been considered acceptable for smaller businesses when importing in small amounts into the EU. The next two to three years might see a tightening up of that regulation across the board, or just between the UK and EU, but there really is no way to tell right now, for the foreseeable future its probably best to stick with the general policy you’ve been using. If you have an importer use their address, if you don’t, stick with your business address, but be aware that this is technically not in full compliance and may become an issue in the future.

Paperwork


Admin, Hooray! Okay, the main way that this will make things different is that the UKCA mark requires you to maintain a slightly different but entirely separate collection of paperwork to the CE mark. These are currently identical to the CE marking paperwork (I’ve put up a previous blog with downloadable versions of all that paperwork that you can use for your own projects) with two minor exceptions:


1) Wherever it says “Toy Safety - Directive 2009/48/EC” for CE marking it needs to say “Toys (Safety) Regulations 2011” for UKCA marking.


2) Any standards designated should be UK standards rather than those sited in the Official Journal of the EU. What this means is that wherever something says “EN” it needs to say “BS” and if there is a standard referred to directly it needs to be prefixed by “BS”.


Conclusion


At the moment a lot of this is still shaking out, since no-one has tested it practically, and some elements are still being negotiated three months before it goes into effect. The long and the short of it is, if you’re printing outside the EU from 1st Jan 2021 you just need to add a new mark to the box and have an extra set of paperwork about and you should be fine. If you printed prior to that point, you should be fine as is.

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